16th June 2017

France’s anti-doping agency reports rise in positive tests

France’s anti-doping agency (AFLD) has reported a rise in the percentage of tests returning an adverse analytical findings (AAF) it recorded to 1.9% of tests taken during 2016, up from 1.73% in 2015 and 1.24% during 2014. The number of tests conducted rose 16.4% from 10,116 during 2015 to 13,549 during 2016, which the AFLD said was due to the number of major events taking place during the year, such as the Rio 2016 Olympics and the Euro 2016 tournament in Portugal.

The 1.9% referred to 2016’s total of 217 AAFs involving 532 substances; up from 161 (1.73% of tests) involving 506 substances in 2015, and 111 (1.24% of tests) during 2014 involving 406 substances. Of the 13,549 tests it conducted during 2016, 56.9% (7,709) tests were conducted in competition, and 43.1% (5,840) were conducted out of competition.

‘For reasons related to the analysis of doping risk, it is anticipated that this distribution will gradually evolve towards a larger number of samples taken out of competition’, reads the AFLD’s 2016 Report (PDF below). ‘The periods considered most at risk are periods of training and recovery periods where the use of prohibited substances or methods appears to be the most likely’.

The Report did not offer a breakdown as to whether a higher percentage of AAFs were reported for in-competition or out-of-competition tests. However, anti-doping agencies are often reluctant to do this, as they legitimately argue that the purpose of in-competition tests is not only to catch cheats, but to deter others from attempting doping.

Breakdown of the main substances found by the AFLD in samples from athletes during 2016, as compared to 2015

Athletes from 731 sports were tested during 2016. Those competing in athletics were the most tested, as our table shows, followed by cycling, rugby union, football and ‘others’. Interestingly, rugby union returned the highest percentage of positives, with 2.55% of tests (28) returning an AAF.

Also, following global trends, the AFLD reported a large decline in the number of glucocorticoids that made up its AAFs in 2016. It reported a rise in anabolic agents, stimulants and hormonal modulators.

Announcing the report, the AFLD was reportedly critical of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for not allowing it to conduct the testing at the French Open. An AFLD Director said that the ITF has “extreme disdain” for national anti-doping agencies, reported the Associated Press. AFLD President Bruno Genevois played down the issue, but agreed that there is a problem, arguing that the ITF has been uncooperative in coming to an agreement on testing, despite the AFLD’s best efforts.

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