AIGLE, Switzerland – Five cyclists face doping charges based on suspicious test results gathered in a pioneering blood profiling system.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) said Wednesday it wants disciplinary cases opened against three Spaniards — Igor Astarloa, Ruben Lobato and Ricardo Serrano — and Italians Pietro Caucchioli and Francesco De Bonis.
They are the first riders facing charges based on evidence provided by the biological passport system which was launched 18 months ago by the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency.
The 33-year-old Astarloa was the world road race champion in 2003. The 30-year-old Lobato was a Saunier Duval teammate last year of Riccardo Ricco, the Italian who won two stages of the Tour de France before being thrown out of the race for doping.
The governing body said the announcement was "a very important step in the battle against doping."
"The UCI is proud, once more, to be the pioneering international federation in this field," it said in a statement.
"The UCI emphasizes that these proceedings are being initiated as a result of the recommendations of the independent experts appointed when the biological passport program was launched."
More than 800 riders have been giving blood and urine samples for laboratory teams to create individual body chemistry profiles. Suspected doping is spotted by fluctuations from their known baseline levels.
Scientists can then search for evidence of doping rather than identifying specific substances.
Their analysis is presented to a panel of nine experts appointed by the UCI who decide if the evidence is strong enough to support opening a disciplinary case.
The UCI has said it would wait for watertight evidence before bringing the first cases to ensure the system stands up to expected legal challenges.
It said Wednesday that fighting doping by using blood profiling tactics "will greatly reduce the possibility that cheating in the future by any athlete who decides to disrespect the rules of the sport remains undetected."