IOC looking at new gene doping test, won’t be used in Rio

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The International Olympic Committee is looking at a new test for gene doping, although it won’t be used at the Rio de Janeiro Games, the IOC’s medical and scientific director said.

The new test — developed in Australia to identify if an athlete is artificially adjusting their DNA to enhance performance — is not yet in use at a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory, Dr. Richard Budgett told The Associated Press.

But the new procedure, when and if approved by WADA, will be used to test samples from the Rio Olympics after the games to see if any athletes were gene doping, Budgett said.

“The samples collected in Rio will at some point be tested for gene doping (after the games), but we have a principle, we will not put in place a test that hasn’t actually been used yet by a WADA-accredited laboratory,” Budgett said in a phone interview.

The IOC can re-test doping samples up to 10 years after an Olympics, enabling it to catch drug cheats who evaded detection at the time when new testing methods become available.

The gene doping test is designed to detect if cheats are injecting synthetic genes which cause the body to produce more of the naturally-occurring hormone EPO, which in turn boosts the body’s ability to carry more oxygen in its blood.

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There is already a test to pick up if athletes are directly injecting EPO, the substance at the heart of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal in cycling. This test is designed to pick up if subtle changes have been made to DNA to make the body produce the extra EPO.

There had been reports that the IOC was going to introduce the gene doping test to its program at next month’s Rio Games. But the test isn’t ready yet, Budgett said late Thursday from Rio.

“We will absolutely not experiment at the Olympic Games. We will use tests that are validated by WADA and for which the reference material is available,” Budgett said. “As I understand it, I’m told the reference material for this new gene doping EPO test is not available yet. So, when it is, then the testing will be done.”

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