In Vitro Veritas

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The good news is that WADA have a test for plasticisers, the traces of molecules that contaminate blood when it is stored in plastic pouches. According to reports in Spanish newspaper El Pais, the test is close to being validated for anti-doping uses.

A refreshing ice cold pint

Only don’t get too excited. The test has looked at hospital patients receiving blood infusions and has found a higher level of plastic molecules in their blood compared to a normal group of people. Specifically the test controls for DEHP, a substance used in blood pouches.

First, a high level of DEHP in the blood isn’t proof of doping, it is only proof of high DEHP levels. Clearly blood doping could raise levels of the molecule but securing a conviction here is going to be hard, riders could argue other causes created the problem, not least since the equipment used to withdraw, store and test the blood for anti-doping controls isn’t required to be DEHP free. It’s like trying to jail a burglar because you discover a crowbar and an empty sack marked “swag” in their home. The test isn’t “smoking gun” evidence.

Second, DEHP apparently isn’t the only plasticiser around. Doping involves going to substantial lengths in order to not to get caught. Riders and “doctors” use masking agents, time the consumption of substances to avoid tests and above all, use undetectable products and methods. Introduce a test for DEHP and the cheats will simply shop around for alternative pouches to store blood or even revert to the retro practice of in vitro storage, ie glass bottles.

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{ 7 comments }

theswordsman January 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I agree. I've said that for months about dopers simply switching blood storage containers. They're always ahead of the game. Something that really bugs me is that according to the WADA/AMA Independent Observer Report, the UCI had no plan to store the 2010 Tour de France samples longer than three months. The AFLD still had samples from 2000 & 2001, but if the plan was followed, the only samples remaining from last year belong to Contador, who gave them public permission to freeze & retest his. If the UCI really wanted to clean up the sport, and knew a test was in the pipeline, they could have kept the samples for a year. It's almost like they wanted to declare a clean sport then ditch the evidence. Cheers

TheInnerRing January 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm

theswordsman: retrotesting is key. If the UCI signals it won't retrotest then it only encourages some. Whilst catching someone years after the "crime" is unsatisfying since they've got the trophies and banked the prize money and salary increases, it is still another weapon in the arsenal and as such, a decent deterrent. Especially since detection of doping is rare given that the cheats are often a step ahead. It is strange to see the sport forgo this advantage.

Here's what the UCI President had to say on retrotesting:
"If we're going to start rejigging the podium of every major international race over the past two or three years, by finding new tests for new products, and going back to the organiser and saying 'you've got to rejig your podium'… it makes a complete mockery of sport."
For me the mockery is that we don't root out the cheats, no?

Touriste-Routier January 12, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I suppose a valid question would be is DEHP also used in saline bags? How often are riders given saline transfusions following races to combat dehydration, which to my knowledge is not a prohibited procedure?

TheInnerRing January 12, 2011 at 5:42 pm

TR: it is banned, only with a TUE can you give a rider saline via intravenous means.

bikecellar January 12, 2011 at 10:18 pm

My first hero was Tom Simpson, my last hero was Tom Simpson,why Tom? I thought at the time they are all at it. 9/10yrs on I raced for 2 seasons in Brittany "they" were still at it Amphetamine's/mafia's, It did not bother me their country their sport/living I thought. Fast forward to Landis, I was there that day, I thought i had witnessed an iconic epic stage of the Tour. Mockery, yes it was I would far rather know the truth of any performance than be made a fool of. Why do I still follow pro racing? whats that french saying? "inocule avec un rayon" or something like that.

TheInnerRing January 13, 2011 at 12:18 am

I think that phrase was Louis Nucera, bikecellar, but not sure.

Gillis January 14, 2011 at 2:07 am

I'm curious how long DEHP stays present and traceable in the bloodstream. Is it as long as the doping is effective? More/less?

Questions possibly without answers I know.

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