Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has introduced new versions of its international standards which doubles the time between collection of a blood sample from an athlete and analysis in a WADA-accredited laboratory from 36 hours to 72. At present, anti-doping organisations have 36 hours from when a blood sample is taken under the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) to conduct analysis on it. ‘If the Sample is intended for use in connection with an Athlete Biological Passport program, it shall be transported rapidly to the laboratory so that analysis can be performed ideally within 36 hours of Sample collection’, reads Annex E.4.17 of the 2015 version of the International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI).
The 2017 version of the ISTI, which will come into effect on 1 January 2017, introduced the concept of a ‘Blood Stability Score’ (BSS) in order to extend that period. This sets a time limit for transportation of the samples based on the BSS remaining below 85. The BSS is calculated by multiplying the temperature the sample has been stored at by three, then adding the result to the Collection to Analysis Time (CAT).
However under its new system, the maximum time allowed by WADA between ABP blood sample collection and WADA-accredited laboratory analysis appears unclear. In a table within the 2017 ISTI, WADA mandates that the lowest temperature a sample should be stored at without being frozen is 4 degrees celsius. In a statement, WADA said that under ‘optimal conditions’, this would give a DCO up to 60 hours to transport the sample to a WADA-accredited laboratory. However, using WADA’s BSS = 3*T + CAT formula, this provides a window of 72 hours at 4 degrees celsius before the BSS rises to 85. This would theoretically give a Doping Control Officer (DCO) 72 hours in which to get an ABP blood sample to a WADA-accredited laboratory.
‘A limitation in the delivery of effective ABP programs has been the practical constraint of collecting biological samples in remote locations or on weekends and transporting them to WADA accredited or approved laboratories within the required 36 hour timeframe’, read WADA’s explanation for the change. A major issue occurred this summer, after the only WADA-accredited African laboratory was suspended three months before the Rio 2016 Olympics. China’s only accredited laboratory was suspended a few weeks earlier.
ISO Guide 30 (2015) sets international standards for blood collection and analysis, however the maximum time period allowed is dependent on many factors, including storage temperature and the type of analysis that is required to be performed on the blood. ‘Stability is the ability of a sample to maintain the initially measured value, within specified limits, of a constituent over a period of time under specified storage conditions’, it reads. ‘The instability is given as an absolute difference, as a quotient or as a percentage deviation of results obtained from measurements at initial time (T0) and after a given period of time (Tx)’.
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