Via CN, AFP reports that Anne Gripper's charges are completing reviews of the Biological Passport program run by the UCI this year, with the possibility that those reviews will lead to opening some doping cases. The article is appropriately vague about whether any disturbing trends have been identified; it merely says the independent experts are poring over the data and looking for any clear indicators of malfeasance. With 800 cases to review, it's taking time, though they should finish "this month," and proceed with opening any cases shortly thereafter.
As tedious as this seems, the results could drastically alter the anti-doping landscape... which itself is already changing after the Tour de France's post-race CERA tests detonated a few careers last month. While such a delayed test is unusual, the CERA cases were ultimately positive doping results, the usual way of catching cheaters. The Bio Passport cases, if any are brought, would seek to prosecute a rider based on changes in blood values over time, without any positives or link to a particular race. A whole new way of prosecuting cheats, as we've previously discussed [though blood value thresholds were formerly, not to mention disastrously, a standard].
Like the CERA cases, the Bio Passport program is justice slow but certain. The slow part sucks, but the threat of ultimate justice should be no less a deterrent than the more immediate blowback riders were hoping to avoid. I hope no cases need to be brought, but after the Kohl and Schumacher debacles I expect otherwise. If so, then we can rejoice in the incredible chilling effect I expect such cases to have, whereby anyone giving in to temptation will face months or years living on edge, waiting for the gendarmes to arrive. Like most crime, there has to be a statute of limitations -- say, five years -- after which the event and the evidence are simply too far removed to warrant punishment. But the tests for new cheating methods will hopefully develop in far less time than that, so even the guys who think they've found the new, undetectable method of beating the controls won't feel safe. I don't know how long CERA has been in circulation, but whoever told Riccardo Ricco that he wouldn't worry about facing tests was tragically mistaken, far sooner than anyone would have thought.
Anyway, while there's a consensus that the battle against doping will never be completely over, we are seeing some awfully important developments in 2008. It has surely been another messy season, but the progress is unmistakeable. Stay tuned.