SAIDS: Retesting of samples from South African events ‘shows there continues to be doping activity’
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Monday, March 04, 2013

SAIDS: Retesting of samples from South African events ‘shows there continues to be doping activity’

by Shane Stokes at 2:28 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Institute to step up testing and increase biological passport approach to fight perceived EPO threat

David GeorgeRetroactive testing instigated after the David George doping positive has shown worrying indications of the possible abuse of EPO by a number of riders in South African events, with that country’s Institute for Drug-free Sport (SAIDS) stating that the results indicate that ‘there continues to be doping activity in South African cycling.’

The samples from a total of 50 riders were retested from a range of road and mountain bike events held in 2012, specifically from the MTN Series round seven on 23 September; Crater Cruise, 13 October 2012; Amashovashova, 14 October 2012; Momentum 94,7fm Race, 18 November 2012; National Track Champs, 25 November 2012; MTN Qubekha Track Competition, 01 December 2012; and the Die Burger Cycle Race, 04 December 2012.

SAIDS has not said how many of the fifty riders showed suspicious readings, nor if worrying signs were shown in every one of those events. However SAIDS CEO Khalid Galant is very concerned by the results, which were taken from samples stored in the WADA accredited laboratory in Bloemfontein and sent to the SAIDS peer lab in Austria for confirmation analyses.

While those results were deemed inconclusive, Galant is clear that there is real grounds for concern. “In light of these results we will be changing up our strategy so that cyclists are aware that we are very serious about cleaning up sport,” he said today. “Our aggressive testing strategy will hopefully serve as a deterrent to those that have been engaging in doping practices and to those who believe they can still beat the doping control system.”

He said that SAIDS would ensure that more riders are included in a biological passport-type programme, which may determine doping without having to have a firm positive test.

When news of George’s positive test was announced in November, Galant said that the former US Postal Service rider’s biological passport had displayed suspicious trends and as a result, he was target-tested.

He was asked to provide a sample on August 29th of last year, and laboratory analysis later showed the presence of EPO.

George [pictured], who raced on the road many years with teams such as US Postal, Tacconi Sport Vini Caldirola, CCC Polsat, Team Barloworld and Relax Gam, switched his focus to MTB racing in recent years. After two years with MTN in 2008 and 2009, he moved to Nedbank 360 Life in 2011.

He admitted his guilt and said that he would not contest the findings. He was subsequently handed a two year ban.

In January Galant said that retests would be carried out on over fifty top riders, with the outcome of that being confirmed today.

Need to ‘constantly innovate’ to combat doping

Galant noted that EPO has taken over from steroids as the bigger threat to sport and that the benefits are considerable in terms of boosting performance. “For an elite athlete, this can mean the difference between first place and middle of the pack. This is why it is imperative that we nip EPO doping in the bud in SA by closing the gap on the dopers to ensure a dope-free, level playing field where riding skills and fitness ensure a win rather than the amount of drugs you pump into your system.”

He said that the biological passport-type monitoring was a necessary tactic in order to pinpoint any athletes who are using micro-dosing in order to narrow the window of detection to between four and six hours. He also noted that in addition to catching current dopers, more stringent monitoring also has a deterrent effect to anyone who is considering starting to dope.

“We won’t let up on our testing strategy,” he vowed. “As we have learnt from the David George and Lance Armstrong scandals, we have to constantly innovate our testing strategy to combat doping and doping trends like the relatively recent shift to blood and increasing its oxygen-carrying capacity.

“We need to clean up cycling and we will continue to be vigorous in our testing in cycling and other endurance sports like triathlon, running and canoeing.”

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