independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

WADA could introduce hair testing to identify drug cheats

Athletes may soon have their hair tested to see if they are drugs cheats, the new World Anti-Doping Agency president has warned.

Britain's Sir Craig Reedie, who takes over the position at WADA on New Year's Day, says a new £6million fund set up by the International Olympic Committee should open up new testing techniques to catch cheats.

Until now, tests have relied on blood and urine samples but traces of some drugs last much longer in hair, and that is likely to be part of WADA's new thrust.

"This new fund from the IOC will create tremendous opportunities for advances in anti-doping and allow our scientists to look at alternative approaches to sample testing for banned substances,” Reedie told Press Association Sport.

"We test in the main blood and urine, but now we will look at different approaches, such as can we use a lock of hair?

"This is a really exciting development and means we can look at approaches that in the past have been unaffordable."

Reedie will ask governments to match the IOC's funding and said that it would be "naive" for anyone to believe the doping issue in sport was going to go away.

The new WADA president also believes it is time to move on from the Lance Armstrong scandal, which caused headlines throughout 2013, and concentrate on the future now that cycling's world governing body the UCI has announced a commission to investigate events surrounding the disgraced cyclist's seven Tour de France wins.

"Most of it happened more than 10 years ago and the UCI is now in a much better place," added Reedie.

"It has been a sensational story but I think we should move on - and soon.

"There is much more to be done, and many more battles to be fought."

Reedie added that it was "regrettable" that there would be no WADA-accredited laboratory to test samples at the football World Cup finals in Brazil next summer - accreditation was removed from the Rio de Janeiro lab - but that it would still be possible to transport them back to Switzerland.

"The logistics are more complicated but it is not impossible," said Reedie.

"There are 600-700 tests rather than the 6,000 you have at a summer Olympics. They just have to make sure there is a system in place so the samples are flown back to Lausanne immediately."

There have also been complications with the Moscow laboratory, which has been threatened with a six-month ban unless improvements are made.

Reedie said there would be a satellite lab for the Sochi Winter Olympics which would deal with all tests at those Games.

He said: "There will be a very well staffed and functioning satellite laboratory in Sochi and a group of foreign experts are helping resolve the problems in Moscow."

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