Banned cyclist Pietrio Caucchioli to challenge validity of UCI’s biological passport

Pietrio Caucchioli plans to be the first cyclist to ask the CAS to throw out a suspension based on the UCI's biological passport

Pietrio Caucchioli, currently serving a two-year racing ban, will become the first cyclist to challenge the UCI’s biological passport in an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. A hearing date is set for December 21.

The Italian was among five riders suspended by the UCI in June 2009 in the first wave of bans issued based on data taken from the ground-breaking biological passport, which was introduced in 2008. Unlike tradition conventional tests, which can detect the presence of a banned substance, the biological passport monitors swings in blood parameters that may indicate manipulation.

Caucchioli, who was later banned for two years by Italian officials, will be the first to take a challenge all the way to CAS. The sporting court has already validated indirect detection methods by upholding a ban of German speed skater Claudia Pechstein, the AFP reported.

Since it was introduced in 2008, the UCI has effectively used evidence from the passport program to target riders and nab them in traditional doping controls, but efforts to hand down racing bans from indicators in the biological passport have been met with controversy.

Just last week, Franco Pellizotti was cleared of doping allegations by Italian anti-doping authorities. On October 21, officials from the Italian anti-doping tribunal (TNA) ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to ban Pellizotti.

“A sufficient level of probability of guilt was not established. The court absolves the rider of the charges against him,” the court said in its decision. The panel also fined the UCI some 5,000 euros in court costs in a ruling revealed on its Web page Thursday.

Lawyers representing Pellizotti argued that the biological passport is not “reliable” and said that there were only two tests that were suspicious out of 22 samples dating back to 2008. The court agreed that was not enough evidence to reveal possible blood manipulation.

Italian officials earlier this year did back the UCI and handed down racing bans against Francesco De Bonis and Caucchioli.