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Special report: Serious concerns over urinary EPO test

By:
Hernan Alvarez Macias in Madrid
Published:
September 23, 2005, 00:00,
Updated:
April 20, 2009, 23:12
Edition:
Cycling News Extra for September 23, 2005

Three recent cases in the endurance sport of triathlon have raised some major concerns about the...

Three recent cases in the endurance sport of triathlon have raised some major concerns about the reliability of the urinary EPO test, which has been used in the sport of cycling since 2001. Although researchers around the world are working on improving the test, several holes in its past methodology have thrown doubt on every positive case involving the drug. This places the World Anti-Doping Agency and national sports federations under potentially crippling legal pressure, should wronged athletes sue for damages. But WADA believes it is safe from such challenges, as Cyclingnews' Chief Online Editor Dr Jeff Jones reports.

Science is characterised by debate. If a theory or method is found to be inaccurate or false, it has to be modified or thrown away. This means that things we have believed to be true in the past, such as the sun and planets revolving around the earth, have had to be revised when better information comes to light. Anti-doping science is not exempt from this, with all the talk about retrospective testing of samples, as well as questioning existing positives.

The Lance Armstrong EPO-in-a-1999-B-sample affair, as well as the acquittals of triathletes Rutger Beke, Virginia Berasategui and Ibán Rodríguez for EPO abuse, have put the spotlight on the Recombinant EPO test, which up until now has been believed to have been quite robust, even if comparatively ineffectual given its maximum three day testing window. Dr Iñigo Mujika is one scientist who has taken a keen interest in the test, and has had plenty of experience. He is a Sports Physiologist from the Basque Country, who has spent time working as a Senior Physiologist at the Australian Institute of Sport in the lead up to the Athens Olympics, and now works as a physiologist and trainer for Euskaltel-Euskadi, as well as a coach of one of the triathletes mentioned, Virginia Berasategui. He has written a detailed report on the limitations of the test, which he forwarded to Cyclingnews.

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