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WADA hails cycling's 'biological passport' plan

PARIS -- Cycling officials vowed Tuesday to create medical
profiles of riders as a way to deter cheats, part of their latest
effort to clean up the doping-marred sport.

With cycling's survival at stake, the World Anti-Doping Agency
set aside a long-running war of words with the International
Cycling Union (UCI) and gave its support to the "biological
passport" program.

"The blood passport doesn't follow products, but the athlete,"
French health and sports minister Roselyne Bachelot said at the end
of the two-day Paris conference on doping in cycling.

WADA president Dick Pound, sharply critical of the UCI's
handling of the doping crisis, hailed the latest effort.

"There has been a lot of harsh language back and forth about
how cycling got to where it is today," Pound said. "This is a new
day. We are trying to work with cycling to help in insofar as we
can -- to get cycling back to where it should be."

Asked what the conference accomplished Bachelot said "first,
the fact that we are all here together."

Billed as an unprecedented crackdown that could be a model for
other sports, riders would need to present the passport to ride in
next year's Tour de France.

WADA and the UCI will create a group next week to work out the
details in time for a January launch.

UCI president Pat McQuaid cautioned the initiative will not cure
the doping problem but serve as a new element in the anti-doping
"arsenal."

"For each rider, you'll have an individual set of parameters
that are his norm ... his blood parameters. There is a norm _ and
above and below, it can only go a certain distance," he said.

"If you see that during the tests the number goes above the
norm, then you know he's done something, that he's manipulated
something and it's not a natural occurrence."

The UCI has promised reform before -- notably, with last year's
"100 percent against doping" program involving more urine and
blood tests, and requiring riders to make their DNA available if
asked for it. Before this year's Tour, riders also signed a
statement promising they were not involved in doping.

Those measures came after American Floyd Landis tested positive
for synthetic testosterone on his way to winning the 2006 Tour.
Found guilty of a doping violation by an arbitration panel, Landis,
who's appealing the ruling, officially was stripped of the Tour
title.

Still, the new measures didn't stop the 2007 edition from
becoming one of the most doping-marred Tours in recent history.
Danish leader Michael Rasmussen was sent home by his team for
missing pre-race doping checks, and pre-race favorite Alexandre
Vinokourov of Kazakhstan was ousted after testing positive for a
banned blood transfusion.

Pound said he hoped that some day, historians would look back on
the 2006-2007 seasons as the years that cycling officials "looked
over the edge of a very deep chasm, pulled back, and said, 'No,
enough."'

On Monday, the UCI announced it would increase doping checks
next year by 50 percent -- to some 15,000 -- with more than half
conducted out of competition.

The conference brought together doctors, lawyers, sports lab
authorities, national cycling federations, the UCI and WADA.
Strikingly absent were riders: only two current cyclists took part
in the panel discussions.

Thomas Voeckler, the former French champion who rides for the
Bouygues Telecom team, said many riders wouldn't object to the
passport system.

"For us riders, it boils down to what we're already used to --
blood tests -- it's nothing new," he said. "Whether I do eight or
12 tests a year, it won't mean much. But if it helps, that's a good
thing."