Athlete Biological Passport (ABP)

The ABP is an important tool for International Federations and Anti-Doping Organizations in the fight against drugs in sport, specifically in that it allows for the long term monitoring of an Athlete’s biological data in both blood and urine as well as the monitoring of potential markers that indicate doping.

What is the ABP?

The principle behind the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) is the monitoring of selected biological parameters over time that may indirectly reveal effects of doping on the body. This approach allows anti-doping organizations to generate individual, longitudinal profiles for each Athlete and to look for any fluctuations that may indicate the use of performance-enhancing drugs or methods. The longitudinal profile for each Athlete is generated based on statistical tools that utilize data from an Athlete’s previous samples to predict the likely individual limits or reference range for future samples. If any data from a sample falls outside of the Athlete’s reference range, this abnormal value may be an indication of doping or a pathological condition. This data can also be used to conduct targeted, conventional anti-doping tests on Athletes with abnormal profiles. ABP data can also be used as corroborating evidence of doping during an anti-doping rule violation case.

What are the variables that are monitored in the Athlete Biological Passport?

Initially, only the hematological biomarkers had been validated by WADA for the ABP. Hematological biomarkers that are measured and can be used for blood profiling include hemoglobin, hematocrit, red blood cell count, reticulocyte number, reticulocyte percentage, mean corpuscular volume, mean corpuscular hemoglobin, mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration and OFF-score. In 2013, the WADA Athlete Biological Passport Guidelines introduced a second module, the Steroidal Module, which became operational on January 1, 2014. The Steroidal Module tests an Athlete’s urine sample to observe unique steroidal variables, therefore making it a useful technique in spotting Athlete abuse of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids. The urinary steroid profile consists of the urinary concentrations of Testosterone, Epitestosterone, Androsterone, Etiocholanolone, 5a-androstane-3a,17β-diol and 5β-androstane-3a,17β-diol, together with the specific gravity of the urine sample. The model used by the ABP replaces the ‘population reference’ approach with an ‘intra-individual’ approach, which allows for a more refined evaluation.

Can the ABP replace traditional anti-doping testing?

Drug testing in sports relies on various strategies that include the direct testing of Athletes for the presence of performance enhancing agents as well as the evidence gathered through the non-analytical or indirect approach. While the approach of detection of prohibited substances or their metabolites in an Athlete’s blood or urine sample is an effective approach, it has its limitations. With the onset of new or modified substances or designer drugs being misused by Athletes, anti-doping agencies seek new detection strategies to combat these emerging threats. Thus, the Athlete Biological Passport provides a complementary and more sophisticated strategy to traditional analytical testing in an effort to scientifically gather evidence of possible doping in sport. The ABP is one tool in a kit of intelligent anti-doping practices meant to deter and detect the use of prohibited substances in sport.

You can find more information about ABP here.