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WADA refuses funding for plasticizer test

It's all about blood - performance-enhancing methods abound in pro cycling

It's all about blood - performance-enhancing methods abound in pro cycling (Image credit: Daniel Simms)

The World Anti-Doping Agency has confirmed it has denied funding for a follow-up study on a test for plasticizers which was designed to detect blood transfusions.

The test for the chemical di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) was developed by the head of the IOC-accredited laboratory in Barcelona, Professor Jordi Segura, and was studied over the past year by WADA. The chemical is used to make plastic bags and tubes used in blood transfusions, and a spike in DEHP could indicate blood manipulation in athletes.

However, the chemical is also widely used in consumer products such as "imitation leather, rainwear, footwear, upholstery, flooring, tablecloths, shower curtains, food packaging materials, and children's toys", according to A report by Bloomberg speculated that the difficulty of proving the chemical originated from transfusion equipment and not food packaging was the reason behind the grant refusal.

Earlier this year, researchers in Lausanne were working on validating the test, and admitted it might not be sufficient alone to support an anti-doping violation.

Last year, WADA general director David Howman gave his support to Segura's idea to apply the test, which has been used in the food industry, to anti-doping controls, but at the time the test was not fully validated.

Segura applied to WADA for funding of a follow-up study, but while WADA contributed funds toward the initial study, it declined to continue to fund the approach.

"WADA's Laboratory Committee decided at the time that there were alternative ways to collect the evidence to the one proposed by Prof. Segura's research," WADA's media relations manager Terence O'Rorke said.

"Consequently, WADA's Health, Medical and Research Committee decided not to approve funding for this specific project as presented by Prof. Segura."

The plasticizer test was reportedly applied to samples taken from 2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, and according to the New York Times, showed evidence of DEHP which Segura called "an unequivocal indication" that a transfusion took place, but admitted he hadn't seen the complete data which might have shown a sudden change in the levels that might support his theory.

Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.