Reports raise doubts over authenticity of dope tests

July 22nd, 2008 - 7:09 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 22 (IANS) Just weeks before the start of the Beijing Olympics, serious doubts are being raised over the doping tests as a BBC investigation reveals that cheats are escaping undetected. The investigation found that World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) laboratories are classing positive tests for the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO) as negatives — opening up the possibility that cheats are not being weeded out.

The findings led Professor Bengt Saltin — a top anti-doping expert — to paint a bleak picture of widespread EPO use at the Games.

“I would think that most of the medal winners and many in the finals of endurance events — there is a big risk for them having used EPO. Of course, they have to be clever but they don’t have to be very clever,” he was quoted as saying in BBC.

Dr Rasmus Damsgaard, who runs the anti-doping programme for the International Ski Federation and the Astana Cycling team, said he has clear proof that positive EPO tests are being misdiagnosed.

Dr Damsgaard sent samples from skiers to a WADA lab for analysis earlier this year and they came back negative, but when he requested a breakdown of the results he found what he said was conclusive evidence of EPO use.

“It was very obvious that the gels were very unnatural or very different from natural distributions,” he said.

“But I also saw that they were declared negative because they didn’t fulfil the WADA criteria of a positive test; although they looked suspicious and had no natural bands at all, they were still declared negative.

“From a little work with a lot of blood profiles, I found maybe five positives. I wonder that maybe hundreds, maybe even thousands of EPO positive samples are lying around in WADA-accredited labs.”

The BBC probe also found that “copycat” versions of the drug, often undetectable, are available on the internet for as little as US$50.

Experts believe WADA should widen their criteria for declaring a positive as athletes are using increasingly sophisticated means of self-medication.

Although a test was introduced to detect EPO variants at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, many athletes succeeded in challenging the results in court.

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