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Portuguese banned in 'biological passport' case

Published:Thursday | May 3, 2012 | 12:00 AM


A Portuguese long-distance runner has become the first track and field athlete suspended for doping based on the 'biological passport' programme that monitors blood profiles for signs of cheating.

The IAAF said yesterday that 38-year-old Helder Ornelas has been banned for four years by the Portuguese federation after being found guilty of doping without an official positive test.

Ornelas, who has competed in two Olympics, was sanctioned based on a series of blood test results collected by the International Association of Athletics Federations between December 2008 and November 2010.

"It is the first time that the athlete biological passport has been used in athletics as sole evidence in support of an anti-doping rule violation," the IAAF said.

The passport programme monitors an athlete's blood variables over time to check for evidence of performance-enhancing drugs or methods.

Cycling's international body, the UCI, launched the project along with the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2008. Swimming federation FINA is among other sports federations using the system. FIFA is trying out the programme in soccer.

"Those who try to cheat within the athletics community should be warned that the athlete biological passport is not merely a concept but rather an efficient method ... to identify, target and catch those who believe that doping is the only route to success," IAAF President Lamine Diack said in a statement.

The IAAF said Ornelas' blood profile was flagged as being 'abnormal' in May 2011, triggering further investigation. A panel of three blood experts examined his profile and concluded "there was no known reasonable explanation" for the abnormal readings other than doping.

The IAAF initiated disciplinary proceedings and referred the case to the Portuguese federation, requesting a four-year ban - instead of the standard two years - because of "aggravated circumstances" justifying the tougher punishment.

Ornelas decided not to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and the ban is final and binding under IAAF rules.

"Cheaters should also be aware that, if they are caught, the IAAF will seek an increased four-year sanction whenever the circumstances so justify," Diack said.