South Africa’s top cyclists have emerged unscathed from a recent round of retroactive drug testing with only suspicious findings returned to the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport.
The findings showed doping in the sport locally was continuing, the institute’s chief executive, Khalid Galant, said yesterday.
Although no cyclist had been charge, Galant said certain individuals had been “red-flagged”.
The doping-control body retested samples from 50 top road and mountain bikers for the banned stimulant EPO (erythropoietin) – an endurance enhancer. The samples had been taken at professional races between September and December.
“Because this was done retroactively, we only had urine samples and, with urine, you can only have a yes or no result,” said Galant about the inconclusive findings which were checked by a peer lab in Austria.
“You have to be 100 percent sure.”
This became more difficult with athletes who were micro-dosing and only traces of the banned stimulant were present.
With blood samples, any manipulation could be detected more accurately, Galant said.
“What we have learnt is to be unpredictable with testing,” he said. This meant athletes could be tested at any time of the night or day.
It also emerged that plans to conduct the retroactive tests, and to test more cyclists, had, in part, been influenced by David George, who was now helping officials to catch dopers.
George’s new stance as an anti-drug advocate has not been well received by all. A Twitter spat has erupted between the cyclist and Duane Stander, the brother of late Olympic mountain biker Burry.
Following a tweet by George that foreign athletes were not tested frequently at local events, Stander replied that “convicted dopers now being vocal about who gets tested, when and where doesn’t make you a hero or any less guilty”.
George’s comment about a lack of testing on international riders was a relevant one, though.
Foreign cyclists could be tested in competition, but if they were training or out of competition, the South African body had no jurisdiction over them.
“We have been in discussion with the International Cycling Union to test cyclists who train in South Africa. We believe it is a weakness in the system,” said Galant.
“We have been aggressive with South African cyclists, but we don’t have jurisdiction over foreign athletes,” he said. - The Mercury