Pan Am Games urged by WADA to store drug-test samples
TORONTO (AP) The World Anti-Doping Agency has urged organizers of the Pan Am Games and other large multi-sport events to follow the example of the International Olympic Committee and store samples for possible testing in the future.
Drug-test samples from Olympic Games are stored for up to 10 years, meaning that an athlete who cheated may be caught a decade later by new testing technology.
''We encourage them to do it because it's important for clean athletes to know that some substance, which couldn't have been analyzed now, could be analyzed later and detected,'' David Howman, the director general of WADA, said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Howman said he recognizes there are budget restrictions, but said that storing more samples would be a further deterrent to cheaters and remind them they are being targeted.
''We've discussed that with the IOC, because they store all of theirs,'' Howman said. ''We're trying to encourage others to look at a process where they can store any that they think will be beneficial in the future.''
The Pan Am Games currently underway in Toronto is the first large multi-sport event to take place since WADA published its revised doping code at the start of the year.
Matthew Koop, who leads the anti-doping program with Dr. Julia Alleyne at the Pan Am Games, said the Pan American Sports Organization - the games organizers - were responsible for deciding about storing samples.
But he said he was in favor.
''These are regional games, and it's a different competition from the Olympics, but many leading anti-doping organizations at the national level are starting to look at this,'' Koop said. ''Of course it comes down to budget. But it is starting to be done, and I think athletes are taking note.''
Howman said two main changes to the code might be noticed at these games, which wrap up July 26 for the 41 nations involved.
- Specific banned substances are being targeted, depending on the sport. Howman used the example of cycling. New rules make it mandatory for a certain percentage of athletes in cycling to be tested for the blood-booster EPO.
''In the past there was a lot of discretion,'' Howman said.
- Specific athletes will be targeted for testing, looking at ''some we might be suspicious about,'' Howman said. ''That's a little bit more smart-testing than in the past, when it was a more random approach.''
Officials running the Pan Am anti-doping program said they will conduct 1,900 blood and urine tests. In an email to AP they declined to confirm the exact number of each. This number is about one-third of the 6,000 athletes participating in Toronto.
Howman, who is leaving his post next year, will have been in the job for 13 years when he steps away. He said it's getting more difficult to cheat, although he's a realist.
''What I see is that the gap has narrowed, but there is more money involved in sport now, and more money made available to those who want to beat the system,'' Howman said.
He used the example of wealthy professional athletes, some earning as much a year as WADA's annual budget of $30 million. WADA has spent about $65 million on anti-doping research since it was set up 16 years ago, which pales in comparison to the cheaters' resources.
Howman said it was a contest between ''the good guys and the bad guys'' and that the opposition is always looking for an edge.
''There are people out there waiting for our prohibited list to come out to find something on that list that they want to try,'' Howman explained. ''They figure maybe they can get away with it. You've got that component that you are always going to be battling.''
Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP