New EPO test could help stamp out microdosing
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Sunday, February 3, 2013

New EPO test could help stamp out microdosing

by Shane Stokes at 5:47 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Far better window of detection available

EPOThe practice of microdosing tiny amounts of EPO in order to evade detection could be stamped out by a new process which has been developed by researchers, with the MAIIA test showing much greater sensitivities in pinpointing those who have used the drug.

A new paper published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports has shown that in subjects given microdoses, the sensitivity of the test was 100% for at least twelve hours after an injection. Approximately thirty percent of plasma samples still exceeded the 99.9% passport threshold a full 72 hours after the substance is used in that way.

Aside from far greater sensitivity than what is currently in place, the dipstick nature of the test means that it is also much faster to perform.

Jakob Morkeberg was the lead researcher on the project and believes that the test could prove very important in fighting doping in sport. “With a little more validation, I think we have a good alternative to the implemented tests for EPO,” he told VeloNation. “The PMI [percentage of migrating isoforms – ed.] variances that are build into the passport model are not that robust due to the relatively low number of control subjects from which the variances are derived. Nevertheless, these 'preliminary findings' are encouraging, based on the small dosages detected.”

Both Floyd Landis and Thomas Frei gave evidence in the past that with current EPO testing, it’s possible to inject the substance late at night and, by drinking plenty of water, be fully clear of the danger of detection by the time the testers call the next morning.

That meant that the standard EPO test has a real limitation, but the newer approach would be far better at snagging riders in that situation.

Morkeberg, who is based out of the Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre, was involved in implementing the internal testing programme used by Team CSC several years ago. He has been working hard to try to stamp out blood doping.

He said that the protocol for the research paper had cycling in mind. “I replicated a administration regime that could take place in the lead up and during a Grand Tour; relative small dosages in the lead up, and then micro/masking dosages during the GT,” he said.

It is not yet clear when the new test will be implemented, but it seems it will be a valuable addition to the fight against doping.


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