Work continues on plasticizer test in Lausanne

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)

Lausanne-based researchers are continuing efforts to devise a validated test for plasticizers in urine samples in a bid to curb the practice of performance-enhancing blood transfusions.

Norbert Baume, of Lausanne’s World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory, explained that he and his colleagues have been continuing work started by other WADA-accredited laboratories who have been researching a test for autologous blood transfusions.

“We try to copy the results of Barcelona and Cologne, and it works,” Baume told The Associated Press. He described their progress as “encouraging.”

As transfused blood is stored in plastic bags, an elevated level of plasticizer in a urine sample could be indicative of an autologous transfusion, but a test has yet to be formally validated. While a test for homologous transfusions has been in use since 2000, researchers have thus far been unable to control against the removal and re-injection of an athlete’s own blood.

Baume explained to AP that clinical trials will be carried out later this year in order to establish a base level of plasticizer in urine against which to gauge a threshold that would suggest blood doping.

“For us it is quite an early stage. We need to do a clinical study. Then, maybe, we can put forward a cut-off level of plasticizers that could indicate a transfusion,” he said.

Baume also warned that the plasticizer test may not be sufficient in itself to definitively prove blood doping, but rather might be used as part of the biological passport system, with fluctuations over time being indicative of autologous transfusions.

“It’s an additional tool you can use to argue that this athlete could have manipulated blood with a transfusion,” Baume said.

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