Olympic anti-doping lab suspicious it may be seeing blood doping
VANCOUVER (CP) — The Vancouver Games may yet have some positive drug tests.
The chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission said Thursday that the anti-doping lab wants to do additional analysis on blood samples taken from some athletes because there may be signs that point to blood doping.
Dr. Arne Ljungqvist, a veteran of the antidoping campaign, couldn’t say how many tests are undergoing further study.
“I don’t have any figures. And all I can say is that it’s a low-grade suspicion at a very low rate,” Ljungqvist told journalists at an IOC briefing. “ There is not a particular suspicion directed toward a particular athlete,” he added.
“But we, just to make sure, wish to follow up some blood data. And that means that we are looking at perhaps cases that are maybe using late generations of EPO.”
EPO, short for erythropoeitin, is a member of a class of drugs developed to combat anemia — low red blood cell counts — in patients with kidney failure and some forms of cancer. Doping athletes in endurance sports use the drugs to boost production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
Ljungqvist didn’t say whether the drug lab expects to be able to resolve the question by the end of the Games.
But under IOC rules, samples are kept for eight years. They can be reanalyzed at any point during that period and if future test- ing shows an athlete cheated, sanctions will be levied.
With 1,821 out of a projected 2,000 doping tests completed, the only positive that has come to light remains a Russian women’s hockey player who used a banned stimulant in a cold decongestant before the Games began. She was reprimanded, but not barred from competition.
“It’s too early to make a full summing up of the Vancouver Games. That will take another one week or two, once we have the full reports from the last few days and compile all the data,” said Ljungqvist, a physician and researcher from Sweden. “But until today, it seems promising.” Nearly 400 of the samples taken so far have been blood, the rest urine.
All medal winners plus two athletes chosen at random from each event have to submit samples for doping control. That portion of the anti-doping effort is called postcompetition testing.
A second component called pre-competition testing involves no-notice sampling of athletes during what’s known as the Olympic period — the time during which the athletes village is up and running.
So far, 888 pre-competition tests have been conducted. Ljungqvist said precompetition testing is completed, so far as planned tests are concerned, but the IOC could still request additional tests, even from athletes whose events are over.