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Top scientist resigns from Olympics anti-doping body over 'muzzling' claims

April 4, 2012 - London

A top scientist in the anti-doping body of the London Olympics has quit in the midst of claims that the authorities are muzzling him.

Dr Michael Ashenden, who is a leading expert on blood doping in cycling, has been critical of the effectiveness of 'biological passports' in keeping an eye on possible doping.

The cycling governing body the Union Cycliste International (UCI), and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have recently handed management of biological passports to a new Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU) at the Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses in Lausanne.

Dr Ashenden claimed the IAAF formed a culture of 'omerta', which is a term that describes the pact of silence in the Mafia, and the new APMU was trying to silence him.

The IAAF wants Dr Ashenden to be part of an expert panel, but new contracts issued by the Swiss Laboratory contained confidentiality clauses, which weren't acceptable to Dr Ashenden.

The biological passport was introduced in cycling in 2007, and involves using blood and urine samples to create a unique medical profile that can be compared to the results of subsequent doping tests.

But, Dr Ashenden claims it is possible to cheat the system by taking micro doses of the blood-boosting drug EPO.

Dr Ashenden said his new contract required him to get permission before offering personal opinions on any matter related to his role interpreting blood profiles, and claimed the APMU were 'trying to manage the message'.

"I believe its important media have the opportunity to ask hard questions. Unless they're well informed about how the passport operates, they won't know which questions to ask," The Independent quoted Dr Ashenden, as saying.

Meanwhile, UCI spokesman Enrico Carpini said: "The system is now being run by the APMU, because of that, the UCI has nothing to do with Michael Ashenden's resignation."


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