The doping retests from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin involve 350 samples, cost $500,000 and are based on intelligence that targets athletes and events considered most at risk for cheating, the IOC’s medical director said.
Despite the cost, effort and an improved steroid test, it’s possible that very few – if any – positives will be detected, Dr. Richard Budgett told The Associated Press in an interview.
”We just don’t know what the results from Torino will be,” Budgett said. ”I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s far, far, far less than people are speculating, despite this new method. We’ve set the expectations at a sensible level. We do not expect necessarily to have any positives.”
Budgett provided the greatest detail so far of the International Olympic Committee’s reanalysis of the Turin samples, which includes a test that can detect steroid use going back months.
The IOC stores Olympic samples for eight years to allow for retesting when new methods become available. With the deadline for the Turin samples expiring in February, the IOC is doing last-minute retesting to catch any cheats who got away at the time.
”Approximately 350 samples are being analyzed,” Budgett said in a telephone interview. ”We’ve selected them based on intelligence. It involves a bit under 200 athletes as many of the athletes have more than one sample.”
The retesting is ”a good half way through” and the results will be finalized by the end of the year, Budgett said.
The program involves a ”full menu” of tests, including the ”long-term metabolite” method that can detect steroids several months – rather than days – after they were taken.
The urine and blood samples are being reanalyzed at the anti-doping lab in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The IOC has budgeted half a million dollars for the tests – ”the whole package of intelligence, doing the reanalysis and follow up of any samples,” Budgett said.
Any positive findings would lead to retroactive disqualification and loss of medals.
The testing is focused on athletes, especially medalists, who would have been most likely to dope.
”We spent a lot of time gathering intelligence on the sports at risk, the countries at risk, on the individuals and coaches and the groups of athletes at risk,” Budgett said. ”The reanalysis is absolutely as targeted as possible.”
The IOC worked with the UK Anti-Doping agency on the intelligence gathering.
”We’re more interested in medal winners than other people, but we’re also looking at patterns of previous positive tests,” Budgett said. ”We’ve had 7-8 years of looking at the patterns of subsequent positive tests so you can see where there might be a risk.
”There are well-known events like biathlon and cross-country skiing where there is a long history of abuse of EPO and other substances, and some sports such as curling where there’s no history of abuse at all.”
In 2010, the IOC retested some Turin samples for insulin and blood-booster CERA but all came back negative. Those samples are now destroyed, so the latest tests are on different samples.
Only one positive case was recorded during the Turin Games, with Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva stripped of a silver medal after testing positive for a banned stimulant.
Last year, the IOC retested samples from the 2004 Athens Olympics and caught five athletes who were retroactively stripped of medals for using steroids, including men’s shot put winner Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine. Previously, retests of samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics led to five positive cases for CERA – with Bahrain runner Rashid Ramzi stripped of gold in the 1,500 meters.
Budgett said the new steroid test – as well as any other improved techniques – will be used to retest more Beijing samples before the eight-year statute expires in 2016.
The latest steroid test was developed by the World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Cologne, Germany.