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IOC Votes for New Tests

Sydney, Australia — The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has voted to use a new combination of blood and urine tests to detect EPO (erythropoietin) blood doping by athletes at the Olympic Games in Sydney. The decision marks the first time that this testing combination will be used at an international sporting event. The IOC-accredited "Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory" will run the blood tests on Bayer's ADVIA(r) 120 Hematology System, which is primarily used to determine the blood count in dialysis and anemia patients. 

Blood Doping Used to Boost Performance

"EPO doping is most often used to maximize oxygen uptake and enhance performance in endurance sports such as cycling and cross-country skiing," says the physiologist Dr. Jim Stray-Gundersen of the Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, who has been conducting research into doping detection methods for a number of years. 

Blood doping was originally carried out via blood transfusions. Today, it involves the illegal use of the genetically engineered, or recombinant, human hormone erythropoietin (r-HuEPO), which is generally used in a medical context to treat anemia. EPO boosts the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen to the muscles. However, too many red blood cells can thicken the blood, and the abuse of EPO can lead to severe cardiac complications and stroke. 

The Risks of Blood Doping

"Doping with EPO is associated with serious health risks," says Dr. Robin Parisotto of the Australian Institute of Sport. Parisotto was the lead investigator of the trial that validated the testing procedure for EPO doping with the Bayer diagnostic system. "Many experts suspect that EPO abuse has played a role in the unexplained heart problems of high-performance athletes over the past two decades."

Although recombinant EPO cannot be directly detected in the blood, blood count analysis enables the indirect detection of the substance days or even weeks after the athlete has stopped using it. r-HuEPO detection in the urine is limited to only a few days after its use. 

"We are very proud that the Bayer ADVIA 120 Hematology System will be used at the Olympic Games. Hopefully the decision to implement this new test will deter athletes from using EPO as a doping substance," says Rolf Classon, General Manager of Bayer's Diagnostics Business Group. "Bayer has been very supportive in the development of this testing procedure. We hope that the role of blood testing at the Sydney Games will reinforce the value and impact of diagnostic medicine in the health care system."

News, photos provided by Newstream
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