After George positive, SAIDS announces it will retest samples from over 50 top riders
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

After George positive, SAIDS announces it will retest samples from over 50 top riders

by Shane Stokes at 10:17 AM EST   comments
Categories: Doping, Track
 
South African road and MTB riders to be scrutinized

David GeorgeIn the latest reaction to the positive test for EPO announced for David George last November, the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) has announced that it is going to retroactively test all blood samples taken from over 50 top riders who competed in big road and MTB events last year.

The process is intended to detect those who may have slipped through the net first time round, particularly if certain tests were not applied to the samples taken. SAIDS wants to establish if there is an EPO doping infrastructure in South Africa, or if the scene is much cleaner than that.

“These scandals have made it clear that we need to do our own due diligence to establish whether EPO doping is happening in SA,” stated the CEO of SAIDS, Khalid Galant. “Part of this strategy is via retroactive analysis of all samples of road and mountain cyclists who tested clear in 2012, specifically for EPO, a hormone that artificially increases the red blood cell count and therefore increases the athlete’s oxygen carrying capacity, and, in turn, enhances performance, to get a confirmatory result.

“We will do this using samples taken and stored in our laboratory in Bloemfontein and results will be out in a few weeks.”

EPO testing is not always carried out on riders’ samples due to cost.

George’s positive test was announced in November. At the time, Galant said that longitudinal monitoring of George (pictured) had thrown up suspicious blood values. He was asked to provide both blood and urine samples in August and the latter showed traces of EPO.

George initially turned pro with the US Postal Service team back in 1999, and also raced with Tacconi Sport Vini Caldirola, CCC Polsat, Barloworld and Relax Gam before turning to MTB racing.

In 2004 the-then Barloworld rider was prevented from starting the Tre Valli Varesine race due to a high haematocrit, and was suspended for two weeks.

After news broke of his positive, George admitted to having used the blood booster and apologized.

Galant also said that the recent investigation into Lance Armstrong was also part of the reason behind the retroactive tests.

“Cycling is being damaged by these high profile doping cases with a high sense of cynism existing, therefore we need to act now and ensure that this does not become a trend moving forward.”

He said that if riders had used EPO or other substances but had not been caught first time round, that they would have the opportunity to admit their guilt now and receive a reduced ban.

“In doing so they can enter a plea bargain and can get a substantially reduced sentence before charges are brought against them,” he explains. “Similar to what Levi Leipheimer did when he came forward and owned up to doping to the anti-doping authorities for the Armstrong prosecution. In his case he received a six month sanction instead of a lifetime ban.”

Such reductions are normally contingent on the rider also providing information that is of use to anti-doping authorities, such as the name of others who were involved, their supplier or other such details.

Galant said that SAIDS planned to increase the number of tests carried out in other sports such as triathlon, running and canoeing. Right now, though, the retests will happen in cycling. “We need to clean up cycling. The excuse that ‘everyone is doing it’ does not wash. Cyclists need to question their own values and not get dragged down by a culture of doping.”

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