IOC using new steroid test on Turin doping samples
London • The IOC is using an improved steroid test to reanalyze frozen doping samples from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin and may use the same method to conduct retests from the 2008 Beijing Games.
The tests can detect steroid use going further back and in lower concentrations, IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
"It's a natural development of the methodology," he said, adding the test increases the chances of catching drug cheats who went undetected.
The International Olympic Committee announced in March that it would retest Turin samples, just as it rechecked some samples from the 2004 and 2008 Summer Games in Athens and Beijing retroactively catching 10 dopers.
The IOC stores Olympic samples for eight years to allow for retesting if new methods become available. The Turin retesting involves a wider detection window, possibly going back as much as six months or more after steroids were taken.
"The IOC is currently retesting some of the samples collected during the Olympic Winter Games in Turin in 2006 and we can confirm that we are using the new long-term metabolites method to detect anabolic steroids," the IOC said in a statement.
The method will be used in the drug-testing program at the Sochi Olympics in February.
Ljungqvist said the IOC expects to have the results of the Turin tests by the end of the year. The tests are looking for steroids, new generations of the blood-booster EPO and growth hormone, he told the AP in a telephone interview.
Urine and blood samples from Turin are stored at the doping laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Ljungqvist said more Beijing samples could now be retested using the improved steroid test. While the samples that have already been retested no longer exist, many others remain.
"We can go back to Beijing before 2016," Ljungqvist said. "We may do that. We haven't decided yet. We will do it as the eight-year time approaches."
Under newly approved global rules, the statute of limitations in doping cases will be increased to 10 years starting in 2015.
According to a weekend report by German broadcaster ARD, doping labs in Cologne and Moscow using the new method have detected hundreds of positive cases in recent months. The report said the substances included oral turinabol, a steroid widely used in the former East Germany, and stanozolol, the drug which led to Ben Johnson's disqualification at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Ljungqvist said he had no independent information on the contents of the ARD report, suggesting the cases may have involved "very old samples" tested for research purposes.
"It's nothing that we have initiated," he said.
The exact number of retests is not known, but Ljungqvist said the IOC had identified "a couple of hundred" samples for possible reanalysis. Endurance events such as cross-country skiing are considered the most open to doping abuse.
The IOC wants to wrap up the testing process, including any sanctions, before the Sochi Games, which begin Feb. 7.
In 2010, the IOC reanalyzed some Turin samples for insulin and blood-booster CERA but all came back negative. The IOC decided a few months ago to test more samples before the eight-year deadline runs out in February 2014.
Only one positive case was recorded during the Turin Games Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva was stripped of a silver medal after testing positive for a banned stimulant.
But Turin was hit by a major doping scandal when Italian police acting on a tip-off from the IOC raided the lodgings of the Austrian cross-country and biathlon team, seizing blood-doping equipment. While no Austrian athletes tested positive at the time, four later received life bans from the IOC.
Last year, the IOC retested samples from the Athens Olympics and caught five athletes who were retroactively stripped of medals for using steroids, including men's shot put winner Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine.
Previously, retests of samples from Beijing for CERA led to five positive cases with Bahrain runner Rashid Ramzi stripped of gold in the 1,500 meters.
On a separate issue, Ljungqvist said he was confident the Russian lab assigned to test doping samples in Sochi will be ready for the games, despite a threat of sanctions from the World Anti-Doping Agency.
On Sunday, WADA gave the lab until Dec. 1 to start reforms to improve the reliability of its results, or face a six-month suspension. The Moscow lab is due to set up a "satellite" facility in Sochi for the Olympics.
"We interpret the WADA decision as if we will have the Moscow lab available," said Ljungqvist, outgoing WADA vice president. "We take that for granted. They (the Russians) will of course fulfill the requirements established in the decision to make sure they have the proper procedures in place. We are feeling pretty confident."
Otherwise, the Sochi samples would have to be sent to another lab outside Russia for testing, posing logistical and financial issues.
"Of course, we have to have a 'Plan B,' but the 'Plan B' is not attractive," Ljungqvist said. "That would be to send samples out of Russia. We have to find a lab which wishes to do that and I'm not sure what labs may wish to do that. It's quite risky with transport and all that."
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