A false start in the race against doping in sport: concerns with cycling's biological passport

Duke Law J. 2011 Nov;61(2):393-432.


Professional cycling has suffered from a number of doping scandals. The sport's governing bodies have responded by implementing an aggressive new antidoping program known as the biological passport. Cycling's biological passport marks a departure from traditional antidoping efforts, which have focused on directly detecting prohibited substances in a cyclist's system. Instead, the biological passport tracks biological variables in a cyclist's blood and urine over time, monitoring for fluctuations that are thought to indirectly reveal the effects of doping. Although this method of indirect detection is promising, it also raises serious legal and scientific concerns. Since its introduction, the cycling community has debated the reliability of indirect biological-passport evidence and the clarity, consistency, and transparency of its use in proving doping violations. Such uncertainty undermines the legitimacy of finding cyclists guilty of doping based on this indirect evidence alone. Antidoping authorities should address these important concerns before continuing to pursue doping sanctions against cyclists solely on the basis of their biological passports.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Athletic Performance / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Athletic Performance / physiology
  • Bicycling / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Bicycling / physiology
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Competitive Behavior / drug effects
  • Doping in Sports / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Doping in Sports / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • International Agencies / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / analysis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Substance Abuse Detection / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • United States


  • Biomarkers
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances