Store doping samples for 10 years to stop sports cheats, say anti-doping bodies

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 25 April 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2930
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1BMJ

Blood and urine samples taken from athletes to check for doping should be stored for 10 years to enable technology to catch up with substances that currently evade detection, international anti-doping experts have said.

The recommendation is one of a raft of measures agreed by 24 international bodies to “help protect the integrity of sport and all those athletes who do not dope.”

The consensus statement was published in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine1 and focused on how to implement the World Anti-Doping Code 2015.2

The other recommendations in the statement included a call for much wider and more frequent use of the biological profiling of athletes, known as an athlete biological passport. Genetic profiling can show up tiny changes to a person’s genetic blueprint resulting from doping substances and methods, without the need to identify the presence of the substance itself, said the experts. This will deter athletes who are thinking of doping, said the statement.

The signatories to the consensus statement included representatives from FIFA (the International Federation of Association Football), the International Olympic Committee, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and accredited anti-doping laboratories. They met in November 2013 in Switzerland to hear the latest scientific and medical evidence on doping and to agree priorities for action.

Players competing in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this June will be among the first athletes to be subject to the “freeze and store” initiative, which will offer opportunities to analyse samples retrospectively over the course of a sporting career and to carry out regular biological profiling.

In an accompanying podcast Jiri Dvorak, FIFA’s chief medical officer, explained that the meeting was prompted by the realisation that scientific advances in performance enhancing substances and the ingenuity of sports cheats were outpacing current anti-doping strategies.

“The fight against doping has intensified over the past 10 to 15 years, but the increase in simple sampling procedures has not stopped some athletes from continuing [to cheat],” he said.

Dvorak emphasised that greater emphasis was needed on deterrents and prevention, the regular gathering of forensic intelligence, and collaboration between all interested parties in sport, medicine, and science.

FIFA had started the biological passport initiative, explained Dvorak, but it needed to be applied more widely. Although this would not be cheap to begin with, it would be much more effective in the long term, he said.

Other approaches agreed included tailoring doping tests to individual sports. For example, cyclists or cross country skiers were likely to choose different substances and methods to boost their performance than weightlifters or wrestlers, said the statement. It added that testing programmes must take account of the training periods of individual sports and the degree to which doping had become a normal part of their culture.

The statement called on all sports organisations to “consistently emphasise that drug taking behaviour is fundamentally contrary to the principles and precepts of sport—that is, against the spirit of the sport.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2930


View Abstract

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription