A distance runner from Portugal received a four-year drug ban for an irregular blood profile, becoming the first track and field athlete sanctioned solely on that basis.

Hélder Ornelas, 38, did not test positive for any prohibited substance.

Ornelas is not challenging the sanction from the Portuguese Athletic Federation (FPA), which represents a significant victory for anti-doping and sport officials. They have been wary of accusing athletes without direct evidence of positive tests for fear the the methodology won't stand up in court.

The evidence against Ornelas consisted of a series of blood test results collected by the international track and field federation (IAAF) between December 2009 and November 2010.

The samples were part of the IAAF’s athlete biological passport program, which measures and monitors an athlete’s blood variables over time. The IAAF has said it will seek bans of four rather than the standard two years in some cases discovered through the passport program.

Ornelas’s blood profile was flagged as being abnormal in May 2011, the IAAF said in a release. Ornelas’s blood profile was submitted to a panel of three international experts in the field of haematology that concluded that there was no non-doping explanation for the abnormalities observed in his blood profile.

“Those who try to cheat within the athletics community should be warned that the Athlete Biological Passport is not merely a concept but rather an efficient method that is now being used by the IAAF Anti-Doping Department to identify, target and catch those who believe that doping is the only route to success,” IAAF President Lamine Diack said in a release.