By Mike Rowbottom at Tackling Doping in Sport in Twickenham

doping samplesMarch 13 - A total of 17 suspected doping cases are being investigated by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as a result of its Athlete Biological Passport system, one of its leading officials said here today.

Thomas Capdevielle, the IAAF's medical and anti-doping results manager, told the conference that the governing body has so far identified a total of 36 violations based on the blood testing programme which was introduced in 2009 and which was accelerated at the 2011 World Championships when samples were taken from every competitor.

Capdevielle said 19 athletes had already been sanctioned for biological passport violations and "17 cases are currently under proceedings".

He added that three of the latter cases had been referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"For all cases we brought forward we suggested a four-year ban because in each case we felt there had been 'aggravated circumstances'.

"But in some cases the sanction was reduced to two years because athletes made an admission of guilt.

Athlete Biological Passport 130313As well as athletics, cycling and tennis also use the Athlete Biological Passport programme

The passport system monitors an athlete's blood profile over time to check for variations that indicate doping.

Cycling also uses the system, and tennis announced last week it was adopting the scheme.

The two biggest challenges to the Biological Passport system in athletics, Capdevielle said, were geographical factors - all samples taken need to be tested in accreditedWorld Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) labs within 36 hours - and the swift turnover of performers in the sport.

"You can find athletes popping up at the highest level and then disappearing within two to three years," he said, adding that this made it difficult to gather the depth of information necessary to show up significant fluctuations in the haematological pattern.

Capdevielle added that in terms of the geographical challenges, one solution was to take mobile laboratories to the athletes.

He said the IAAF was hoping to set up a doping lab at the training base in Eldoret, Kenya to make it easier to test the country's long-distance runners.

A total of 150 Kenyan athletes are already logged on Biological Passports, which focus primarily on the haematological variations of endurance runners.

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