AFL banks on blood profiles

Written By Unknown on Selasa, 22 Januari 2013 | 14.43

The AFL has introduced the same blood profiling system used in cycling to catch doping cheats. Source: Supplied

THE AFL says it has built a bank of biological data on its players equal to the profiling system that has helped clean up cycling post-Lance Armstrong.

League medical commissioner Dr Peter Harcourt said yesterday records from five years of blood testing AFL players were available to doping investigators.

Changes in biological profile would alert authorities, led by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, that a player required close scrutiny.

Cycling's "biological passport" is being adopted by other sporting bodies around the world.

But Harcourt said the AFL was ahead of most sports. He said its testing, in partnership with ASADA, was almost identical to that of cycling.

"We are effectively already doing it," he said.

"We have been blood testing in the AFL for four or five years -- and now ASADA are introducing the Athlete Biological Passport, we are morphing our blood profiling, which is essentially the same, into the biological passport.

"But basically it's exactly the same as what we have been doing with the blood testing and urine testing. That was a part of the strategy -- to get ahead of the game.

"We do about 1000 tests (a year) all up . . . and a lot of our blood profiling is about trying to see if someone looks a bit unusual.

"And then if they look a bit unusual, then we do more tests.

"There's a lot of intelligence that sits behind it -- analysing things," he said.

"We started doing it four years ago and we picked it up because cycling were doing it. We were the first sport in Australia to do it."

Harcourt said the only major difference with the passport was a requirement for players to be rested for two hours before a blood sample is taken.

He said players identified by ASADA had been blood or urine-tested up to nine times in a year.

Samples can be stored and re-tested for up to eight years.

Asked why some players would be targeted, Harcourt said: "Well, they would have had some irregularities. We have had individuals who have had strange test results . . . but none of them have come through as anything other than natural."

Former Richmond ruckman Justin Charles is the only AFL player to have been found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs. He was suspended for 16 matches in 1997 after admitting to using anabolic steroids.

Biological passports measure and monitor an individual athlete's blood over a period of time.

Testing agencies can create a profile on a sportsperson and are able to uncover irregularities.

While not necessarily detecting the type of prohibited substance used by an athlete to cheat, the passport can indirectly reveal the effects of doping.

"The athlete biological passport testing differs from traditional testing by looking for the effects of blood doping rather than detecting the prohibited substances or methods used," an ASADA spokesman said yesterday.


* Measures and monitors an athlete's blood variables over a period of time

* Catches cheats by flagging abnormalities and irregularities

* Indirectly reveals the effects of doping, as opposed to a reliance on traditional detection tests

Source: WADA

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