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Testing Dried Blood Spots a 'Very Important Step' in Anti-doping: WADA

World Anti-doping Agency logo (Photo Credit: Reuters)

World Anti-doping Agency logo (Photo Credit: Reuters)

WADA on Friday approved an innovative method of screening dried blood for banned substances which will be trialled for the Tokyo Olympics.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Friday approved an innovative method of screening dried blood for banned substances which will be trialled for the Tokyo Olympics.

The decision marks a “very important step" in the fight against doping, its scientific director Olivier Rabin said in an interview with AFP, as the so-called dried blood spot (DBS) testing technique will ultimately strengthen WADA’s capacity to track down cheaters.

Q. When will you start appplying this technique in a major competition?

A. “The Tokyo Olympics will be the first time that DBS will be used in a major multisport competition as part of the fight against doping… In order not to create double constraints for the athletes, the idea is that the blood that we will collect as part of the Athlete Biological Passport, a few drops will be taken and put on the dry matrix (a kind of blotting paper) which will allow us to analyze in a more precise way certain substances… At first this will be complementary to what we are doing today (blood tests and urine analyzes). For the Beijing Olympics next year, there is a progression planned, we will integrate new analyzes."

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Q. What are the benefits?

A: “To start with it’s less intrusive for the athletes. Some samples are taken from the fingertip, from the earlobe, from the shoulder, from the thigh… The other advantage of DBS is that from the moment you put it on a piece of paper, the liquid will dry and it stabilizes the matrix… You have to put that in parallel with the increasingly elaborate doping strategies of certain athletes, who know very well how to use substances which stay a relatively short time in the body. Certain substances, after 24, 36, 48 hours, you no longer find them… As well, the collection of the sample itself is often less expensive, you don’t need all the usual tubes paraphernalia. And you do not have a bunch of bottles to store in large fridges… Rather you just have a kind of postcard that stores much more easily… In addition, it is sometimes difficult to go and take (traditional) samples in remote areas that are far from our anti-doping labs."

Q. Is this new method a “game changer," as AMA President Witold Banka has predicted?

A. “This is a very important step for the anti-doping community. In the future, we will be able to extend anti-doping coverage, better analyze certain substances, we will also be able to analyze new substances… We must be very clear, it will not replace the current tests. It will take some time before we have tests on microliters of blood that are as efficient, if they ever will be, as what can be done today with analyses of urine or larger blood samples. But we think that there is a strong potential in the development of such a matrix. Maybe in 5 years, 10 years, we will be able to measure EPO in a few microliters of dried blood, in which case we will say: that’s it, we can apply DBS to EPO, but today it would not be realistic to do so."

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first published:May 26, 2021, 01:43 IST