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Athletes bound for the Rio Olympic Games who have benefited from gene doping will face the threat of being exposed due to a new test which has been developed by Australian researchers.
Days before the Rio Games start, the International Olympic Committee has confirmed that it plans to use a new test for the hitherto-undetectable form of doping.
IOC Medical and Scientific Director Dr. Richard Budgett told The Associated Press that the new test will be used once it has been validated by the World Anti Doping Agency. That won’t happen prior to the Games, and so he said that the test will be applied to post-Rio retests.
“The samples collected in Rio will at some point be tested for gene doping, 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,” he said.
The test has been developed in order to detect athletes who have artificially adjusted their DNA via synthetic genes. These genes work to increase the body’s natural production of EPO, which in turn brings about an increase in red blood cells.
Previous anti-doping retests have been carried out on samples from Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and dozens of athletes have been nabbed, including those who won medals.
Under the WADA code, retests can be carried out up to ten years after the sample collection date.
Budgett said that the IOC will tread carefully at this point, but that the gene doping restests will be applied in the future.
“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. 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.”
The news will create unease for any athletes – including cyclists – who may have utilised gene doping.