WADA forwards THG test to accredited labs

MONTREAL OCT. 22. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced on Tuesday that the method of detection for the designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) has been communicated to all International Olympic Committee (IOC)/WADA accredited laboratories throughout the world.

The test for detecting THG was developed and distributed by the laboratory headed by Prof. Don Catlin at the University of California, Los Angeles. The test will shortly be a part of regular doping screening conducted by all accredited laboratories.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) first announced last week that the UCLA lab had found the previously undetectable steroid in samples collected in-competition at this year's U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships and also in out-of-competition samples. USADA will forward to the accredited laboratories later this week reference samples of THG.

"We commend the UCLA lab for moving quickly not only to identify this substance, but also for making sure the other laboratories have access to this test as quickly as possible," said, WADA Director General David Howman.

"This sends a strong message that there will be no delay in catching those who cheat or who believe they can stay one step ahead of the system. It is also a good example of how important the sharing of knowledge in the scientific community can be to stop doping."

Howman also commended the international sports federations and national anti-doping agencies that have already indicated they may retest previous samples stored in laboratories for THG. "WADA strongly encourages all bodies responsible for testing to review their internal processes and protocols to see whether currently stored samples can be analyzed for this `new' substance," he said.

The USADA revelations have the potential to develop into the biggest dope bust ever since Canadian Ben Johnson tested positive for steroid stanozolol, at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

Following the detection of the hitherto unlisted steroid by Prof Catlin, the drug source was traced back to Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) in San Francisco. The lab was raided by the US agencies last week and a grand jury has subpoenaed around 40 athletes including many top sports personalities of the US. The list included American double gold medallist at the recent World championships, Kelli White, who is already under scrutiny for having tested positive for a stimulant, modafinil.

The only athlete whose identity in the THG scandal has been revealed so far is American shot putter Kevin Toth. The athlete has denied any knowledge, however. BALCO has been associated with a veritable who is who of world sport and had claimed in the past that it had helped them achieve success with its nutritional products. Those include US sprint superstar Marion Jones, her husband and 100m world record holder Tim Montgomery, American baseball star Barry Bonds and British sprinter Dwain Chambers.

When the USADA first took the lid off what has been a well-kept secret since June this year, its chief executive officer, Terry Madden, said that there seemed to be a widespread "conspiracy" involving chemists, coaches and athletes. "I know of no other drug bust that is larger than this involving the number of athletes involved," he said.

The detection followed a tip-off from a well-known, unidentified coach, who followed up his communication by sending a half-filled syringe containing the substance to the UCLA lab. The scientists there worked six weeks before they cracked the code and found that the substance was actually a steroid similar to two other banned steroids.

Prof Catlin then went back and tested several stored urine samples including those collected at the US track and field championships this year and found that there were many positives. Some reports have suggested hundreds of positives were found.

If the testing and legal process can be completed and doping offences proved, athletes face a two-year suspension. Already the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and WADA are engaged in the process of re-examining the Jerome Young case of 1999.

Young, world champion in the 400m in Paris, who was reprieved by the USATF after an appeal, had tested positive for steroid nandrolone in 1999 and subsequently competed in the Sydney Olympics in 2000. The case was recently re-opened following the identification of the athlete in an article in the Los Angeles Times.

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