The World anti-doping agency (WADA) is revising its policy to include re-testing samples that had previously come back as negative but remained suspicious. The new guidelines will allow re-testing of previously frozen samples.
"There could be interesting cases to come," Olivier Rabin, WADA's science director, told The Associated Press.
It is the kind of scenario that German Stefan Schumacher is at odds with against the French anti-doping agency (AFLD). Schumacher's initial A-sample tested negative, but the values were suspicious enough that AFLD re-tested it for CERA, a newer generation of EPO. Those tests came back positive. Schumacher is fighting the suspension on the grounds that the A-sample had been shipped between various entities, unsealed and with his name written on it, a violation of anti-doping regulation. If WADA comes up with such a system they will have to make sure the handling of the samples is bullet-proof.
WADA also faces problems from copies of drugs, called biosimilars, which are different enough from the original medicine that they may not be testing positive. There are around 20 countries world-wide which produce such EPO biosimilars. Approximately 80 such products are suspected to be in production, according to WADA-funded research by experts Iain Macdougall and Michael Ashenden.
The changes are still revised currently, but are expected to be approved by the WADA executive committee on May 9.
Rasmus Damsgaard, a Danish anti-doping expert who works for some cycling teams as well as the International Ski Federation, acknowledged the problem of finding EPO copies. He is suspecting that five cross-country skiers whose tests came back negative from a WADA-accredited lab in Europe last year were using such a product.
Damsgaard also believes that word spread among athletes that EPO copies were slipping past controls. The revisions now planned by WADA, he added, will mark "a milestone in the EPO test. A lot of people came through the loophole," he said.