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Biological passport to catch sports cheats

Athletes be warned: the way illegal doping is detected is on the cusp of a radical change.

On 2 December, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released guidelines on the long-awaited "athlete biological passport", a way to spot cheats by monitoring them for suspicious changes in normal physiology. The method would be used in addition to testing for specific drugs.

The passport, which consists of a regularly updated record of blood measurements for each athlete, was first suggested in 2002 and is already being piloted by several sports federations, including the International Cycling Union (UCI).

The release of the guidelines, which specify for the first time what measurements should be documented in the passport (see chart), may speed its uptake by many more. "These guidelines are to help sporting federations everywhere introduce biological passports," says Olaf Schumacher, a WADA adviser at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

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