MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News this is All Things Considered, I'm Melissa Block. The International Olympic Committee has sent a message to athletes who passed their drug tests at the recent Olympics, not so fast. Today the IOC announced it will do more studies on blood samples taken during the games. The IOC is targeting a new substance that was discovered in some athletes at this year's Tour de France. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.
TOM GOLDMAN: The Beijing games were heralded as one of the cleanest Olympics ever. IOC president Jacques Rogge predicted before the games up to 40 athletes would be caught doping in China. It turned out only six competitors were kicked out for using banned substances. But amidst the back-slapping over a job well-done, many in the anti-doping world suspected six out of nearly 11,000 athletes wasn't quite accurate. And now the IOC itself is acting on that suspicion. The Committee says it will further analyze some of the 969 blood samples taken from athletes. Here's why. A blood test for a new form of the banned oxygen-boosting drug EPO has been validated since the games.
The IOC wants to find out if athletes were using the new drug called CERA. The committee decided to act after Tour de France officials announced this week that further analysis of blood tests from this year's race revealed two more cyclists who'd used CERA. It's a new generation of EPO, a drug that increases the amount of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. It can help endurance athletes and athletes who want to recover quicker from workouts. Anti-doping expert Dr. Gary Wadler describes CERA's appeal
Dr. GARY WADLER (Anti-doping expert): It's just longer-lasting. I mean, what they basically do is take the EPO molecule and they attach something called PEG which stands for polyethylene glycol, which allows the drug to circulate longer. They need reduced frequency of injections.
GOLDMAN: Fewer shots but a double-edged sword for doping athletes, says Wadler.
Dr. WADLER: Like the longer-acting steroids, once they're there, they're there, and you cannot get rid of them except by time.
GOLDMAN: Which is why, according to Wadler, CERA may fall out of favor with athletes trying to get enhancement without detection. Wadler, who's a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency or WADA, says the agency worked with the drug company that developed CERA and came up with a blood test for the substance. International sports officials today are heralding that kind of collaboration and also the IOC's policy of retroactive drug screening. In 2004, the IOC announced it would start saving samples for eight years for future testing. Andy Parkinson from the group Drug-Free Sport in Britain is quoted as saying the IOC's actions with the Beijing samples sends a great message. Said Parkinson, long gone are the days when an athlete gets a negative test after a competition and disappears with the medal forever. Athletes who cheat are not safe even eight years after competition. Of course, the fight continues, with some athletes and chemists cooking up drugs for which there's no test. But today at least, the anti-dopers say, they're gaining ground. Tom Goldman, NPR News.
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