Major doubts have been raised over a key doping test just weeks before the Beijing Olympics, according to a BBC probe released on Monday -- sparking fears that cheats are going undetected.
The investigation found that World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) laboratories are classing positive tests for the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO) as negatives -- opening up the possibility that cheats are not being weeded out.
The findings led Professor Bengt Saltin — a top anti-doping expert — to paint a bleak picture of widespread EPO use at the Games. “I would think that most of the medal winners and many in the finals of endurance events -- there is a big risk for them having used EPO. Of course, they have to be clever but they don’t have to be very clever,” he said.
Dr Rasmus Damsgaard, who runs the anti-doping programme for the International Ski Federation and the Astana Cycling team, says he has clear proof that positive EPO tests are being misdiagnosed.
Dr Damsgaard sent samples from skiers to a WADA lab for analysis and they came back negative — but when he requested a breakdown of the results he found what he said was conclusive evidence of EPO use.
The BBC probe also found that “copycat” versions of the drug, often undetectable, are available on the internet for as little as 50 dollars. Experts believe WADA should widen their criteria for declaring a positive as athletes are using increasingly sophisticated means of self-medication.
IOC to monitor ‘abnormal’ betting
China has a long history of gamblers willing to place wagers on just about anything and it is exactly this love of betting that is worrying Olympic organisers ahead of the Beijing Games.
Despite being illegal in mainland China, betting is found on street corners in nearly every city, but it is the recent emergence of online gambling that has drawn the attention of the authorities.
In an effort to curb match-fixing by athletes or sports officials, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced last month it would set up a special unit at the August 8-24 Beijing Games to monitor “abnormal” betting patterns.
“We have signed an agreement with the major betting companies,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said. “We rely on them to advise us if there is an abnormal pattern in betting ... it is their interest to work with us, and our interest to work with them,” he said.