The limbo of biological passports

The sentence of the National Court that exonerates ex-cyclist Ibai Salas for irregularities in his biological passportan internationally accepted method of punishing doping, can cause several more cases in Spain remain in limbo, without punishment. Sources from the anti-doping fight confirmed to AS that there are three cases whose disciplinary proceedings were underway prior to the entry into force of the new Anti-Doping Law in December 2021 and remained paralyzed pending a court decision. A fourth, referring to a retired second-level cyclist whose case was resolved years ago, was closed when he accepted his sanction and did not appeal.

The Spanish Anti-Doping Agency, now called CELAD, received yesterday Thursday the ruling from the World Anti-Doping Agency (AMA), which is the one who filed the appeal, and declined to make any official assessment pending “study” the objections from the Audiencia to the passport. A blow to the heart of anti-doping. At present, the CELAD manages more than 900 athletes’ passportsa hematological and steroid profile traced with various analyzes carried out over time by which the traps are detected even if there is no positive. 60% correspond to cycling and athletics and the rest are divided between swimming, canoeing, rowing, triathlon and soccer.

CELAD imposed a four-year sanction on Ibai Salas in 2018. He appealed to the TAD (Administrative Court of Sport), which acquitted him. The AMA appealed to the Swiss TAS (Sports Arbitration Court), which confirmed the sanction, and to the Central Administrative Court number 7, which nevertheless agreed with the cyclist. Hence, a new appeal to the National Court and a new setback. The option remains to appeal to the Supreme Court.

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The Court recalls that an adverse result “by itself does not determine the commission of the offense, but rather the probability of consumption of a prohibited substance that must be determined.” And it requires a “regulatory development” of the passport. In December 2021 the new Spanish Anti-Doping Law came into force that reinforces this as a valid means of proof, something that was already collected in 2013 and was developed in 2017, but without so much force. This seems not to be enough for the magistrates. CELAD is already preparing a Royal Decree for the development of this tool, which could be late in some cases. It would remain to be seen, in the event of an adverse result and sanction, what would happen if an athlete appealed before the ordinary courts already under the umbrella of the 2021 Law. An uncertainty that undermines the credibility of the Spanish system.

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