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New tests coming as WADA expert warns ‘EPO and doping are not going to go away’

World Anti-Doping Agency to launch a new module to detect human growth hormone.

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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will launch a new module as part of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) that will be able to detect the use of growth hormone. The new marker will come into force at the start of 2023.

Dr. Reid Aikin, the deputy director of the ABP at WADA, spoke at an anti-doping symposium in Delhi, India where he confirmed the new development of the passport. He also stated that the use of performance-enhancing drugs and EPO were not “going to go away.”

“At present, the ABP is there to detect two main substance classes. The hematological module of the ABP is used to detect blood doping, whether it is transfusion or whether it is EPO. And the steroidal module helps to detect steroid doping and different types of steroids. We are also launching in 2023, the endocrine module that will target growth hormone doping. To answer the question, EPO and doping are not going to go away. This is something that is very much in use. But if you look at populations that have the passport implemented for a long period of time, the users do go down,” Aiken said according to the New Indian Express.

During the symposium, the topic of micro-dosing was also discussed. Several experts who have worked within the ABP have previously voiced concerns that the micro-dosing of EPO is a major threat and that the current passport cannot pick up cheats who use this method of doping.

Aikin acknowledged the issues but presented the argument that although the passport couldn’t detect micro-dosing, it could at least lower the doses athletes could potentially use, and therefore the effects of the doping program they undertook.

“If substance classes don’t fall into those detected by the ABP, that is still very much a lab detection issue. As you say, the window of detection is critical. We hope that as athletes reduce doses, it’s reducing the effect. If you have a lower dose of a substance, the effect will be less. So as athletes go to lower doses or micro-doses or reduced timing of the use, that’s a win for anti-doping. It’s not beating the system but having less effect. It’s less effective than their doping program.”

“I want to add. If there is an indication of use of substances with a short detection window, that could say, come from different investigations or different sources of information. Now, anti-doping organizations have the ability and are authorized to test the athletes 24 hours seven days a week. Earlier, there was a window from 6 am to 10 pm. Because of this very short detection window, there was that adaptation of the code and now is possible, of course with a justification, to test the athlete during the night, for example.”