IOC president Bach reveals genetic drug-testing may be ready for Olympics

New method could detect blood doping months after it took place

 International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach addresses the opening session of the fifth World Anti-Doping Agency world conference on doping in Katowice, Poland. Photograph:  Andrzej Grygiel/EPA

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach addresses the opening session of the fifth World Anti-Doping Agency world conference on doping in Katowice, Poland. Photograph: Andrzej Grygiel/EPA

 

A “ground-breaking” new method of using gene testing to catch doping cheats could be ready in time for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has revealed.

Bach predicted that the new technology would allow blood doping to be identified even several months after banned performance-enhancing drugs, such as EPO, had been used by an athlete. As things stand some substances can be undetectable by testers after just a few hours.

“With research on genetic sequencing progressing well, this new approach could be a ground-breaking method to detect blood doping, weeks or even months after it took place,” Bach told the world conference on doping in sport in Poland,

“If approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), such new gene testing could be used already at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” he added. “These new methods will again strengthen deterrence. We want the cheats to never feel safe, anytime or anywhere.”

The new gene test has been pioneered by Yannis Pitsiladis, a professor of sports science and genetics at the University of Brighton, who has been developing it since 2006. Using volunteer athletes, Pitsiladis and his team have identified which genes are “turned on” when blood has been manipulated by either the use of a banned substance such as EPO, which boosts the production of red blood cells or a transfusion.

Pitsiladis, a member of the IOC medical and scientific commission, believes it is the most significant development in the fight against anti-doping since the introduction of the athlete biological passport more than a decade ago.

Even if the new test is not validated in time for Tokyo 2020, the IOC intends to store more samples so they can analyse them in the future. “This will add to the fact that the pre-Games testing programme for Tokyo 2020 will be the most extensive programme ever, aimed to maximise both detection and deterrence,” added Bach.

Meanwhile, outgoing Wada president Craig Reedie has conceded that the Russia doping crisis was the worst in history of the anti-doping movement, but insisted it had reawakened people to the importance of tackling cheating,

“Clearly, there have been times when elements within the system have failed to live up to expectations,” he said. “The worst case of system failure, certainly in my time as president, if not in the entire history of the anti-doping movement, has been with Russia.

“The revelations exposed by the Wada-led investigations of Richard Pound and Richard McLaren forced a sea change in attitude around the globe. Confirmation of that unprecedented level of cheating left the sports world in no doubt of the scale of the job facing Wada and has reawakened all stakeholders to the importance of sports integrity.” – Guardian

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.