2nd May 2017

WADA defends turinabol test used in IOC retests

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has defended the test for new metabolites of dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (turinabol) that accounts for approximately 70% of the 111 anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reported through its retesting of samples given at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics. Last week Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Vitaly Mutko, cast doubt on the validity of the test. He claimed that as the science behind the test was developed by Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Director of the Moscow laboratory named in WADA’s investigative reports as the main architect behind systemic Russian doping, it is unreliable.

Mutko was Russia’s Minister of Sports whilst the systemic doping outlined in WADA’s reports took place, and was implicated in them as covering up a positive test by a foreign footballer playing in Russia. Mutko is also President of the Football Union of Russia (FUR) and Chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia. “Turinabol tests are his invention”, he told Russian State news agency, TASS. “Currently, a number of athletes filed lawsuits against his method. The outcome is unclear, but certain experts believe that this test will find turinabol even in coffee.”

As outlined in part two of the Independent Person (IP) Report produced for WADA by Richard McLaren, Rodchenkov and his assistant Tim Sobolevsky discovered a new method for the detection of turinabol that increased its detection window from a few days to up to six months after it was last used. Their 2011 paper, ‘Detection and mass spectrometric characterization of novel long-term dehydrochloromethyltestosterone metabolites in human urine’, was published in The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in February 2012. WADA confirmed that although it was true that Dr. Rodchenkov had developed the science behind the test to detect new metabolites of turinabol, it had been verified by other laboratories.

‘The detection method for some of the long-term metabolites was indeed developed through research by the Moscow laboratory, but not exclusively’, wrote a WADA spokesperson in an email. ‘Other laboratories were involved in validating the metabolite identification method using different methods than the one used by the Moscow laboratory. Furthermore, each laboratory has to validate the detection method before they use it in routine analysis; and, the methods are reviewed by independent ISO accreditation bodies. The current detection method for turinabol and its metabolites was validated by different laboratories using different methods and fulfils all the requirements for a routine anti-doping method as established under the International Standard for Laboratories.’

Mutko’s comments appear to go against the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) requirement for an ‘appropriate official response’ to the allegations against Russia. The requirement for such a response was one of six ‘milestones’ set by the IAAF in February 2016 that the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) must meet to be reinstated into international competition, in addition to the original Verification Criteria set by the IAAF in December 2015.

Last month, the IAAF outlined that all six ‘milestones’ remain outstanding. “Council was disappointed and concerned to learn that the prospect of the milestones being fulfilled this year by RusAF remains a distant one”, said IAAF President Sebastian Coe in a statement.

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