LONDON (AP) — With the eight-year deadline approaching, the IOC will retest doping samples from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin in a bid to catch any drug cheats who escaped detection.
IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist told The Associated Press on Wednesday that samples will be retested with more advanced techniques to search for banned substances that couldn’t be found in 2006.
Positive tests would result in athletes being retroactively disqualified and stripped of medals.
“Science evolves continuously,” Ljungqvist said. “The longer we wait, the better position we will be in to apply modern technology.”
The International Olympic Committee is consulting with the World Anti-Doping Agency on how many samples to retest and which events to target. Endurance events such as cross-country skiing are considered the most open to doping abuse.
“No samples are immune,” Ljungqvist said.
5 athletes from the 2004 Summer Olympics were caught retroactively
Last year, the IOC retested samples from the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and caught five athletes who were retroactively stripped of their medals for using steroids, including men’s shot put winner Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine.
“We could see from the retests of the Athens Games that there are good reasons for going back to Torino with methods that were not available then,” Ljungqvist said.
In 2010, the IOC reanalyzed some Turin samples for insulin and the blood-booster CERA but all those tests came back negative. Ljungqvist said the new retests will look for other substances.
There was only one positive test recorded during the Turin Games, with Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva stripped of a silver medal after testing positive for a banned stimulant.
But Turin was hit by a major doping scandal when Italian police — acting on a tip-off from the IOC — raided the lodgings of the Austrian cross-country and biathlon team, seizing blood-doping equipment. While no Austrian athletes tested positive at the time, four later received life bans from the IOC.
The statute of limitations for the 2006 Winter Olympics expire in 2014
Since the Athens Games, the IOC has stored samples for eight years to allow for retesting when new methods become available. The statute of limitations for 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin expires in February 2014.
“It’s always a balance between waiting for a long time and finding things as soon as possible to show we are taking action against the cheats,” Ljungqvist said. “It’s not nice to rewrite history eight years later. It’s better to have the writing from the outset, but the balance is there and that’s what we have to do.”
Retests for CERA from the 2008 Beijing Olympics led to five positive cases — including the stripping of Bahrain runner Rashid Ramzi’s gold medal in the 1,500 meters.
The Turin samples are stored at the doping laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland. They include urine and blood samples.
“We are discussing with WADA what to do and how much we do, just like we did with Athens,” Ljungqvist said. “It will be a heavy work load with the all the logistics and practical issues.”
The joint effort was confirmed by WADA director general David Howman.
“Yes, we’re working together,” he said.
Last year, WADA leaders criticized the IOC for not retesting more of the 3,000-plus samples from the Athens Olympics. The IOC reanalyzed about 100 samples.
IOC officials hope to wrap up the Turin retesting process, including any disciplinary procedures, before the next Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in February 2014.
The International Association of Athletics Federations has also conducted retesting of doping samples. On March 8, the IAAF announced that six athletes from Russia and Belarus — including three gold and two silver medalists — had been caught for doping in retests from the 2005 track and field world championships in Helsinki.