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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is to re-test doping samples given at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin before the next edition in Sochi, Russia, subjecting them to the latest methods of detection.
The international body has kept every sample given by top athletes since the 2004 Summer Games in Athens in a huge freezer at its anti-doping laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, in the hope that previously undetected doping can be exposed.
“I think it is one of the strongest deterrents that the IOC has,” IOC medical and scientific director Richard Budgett told AFP.
“All international federations know that the IOC is one of the very few bodies that keeps and freezes samples for the maximum time allowed, that is eight years.
“We are going naturally to do some reanalysis on the samples from Torino and hopefully benefit from the fact that science has progressed a lot in the past eight years.”
Budgett, a gold medal-winning rower for Britain at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, said tests were now more sensitive and could detect substances such as human growth hormone.
“I would be surprised if we didn’t have any adverse analytical finding. So I expect us to find some positive tests but you just don’t know. We have to wait and see,” he added in an interview.
Previous analysis of such samples have proved fruitful and have led to the revision of seven podium places.
Months after the end of the Beijing Games in 2008, re-testing caught two medalists - the 1500m champion Rashid Ramzi from Bahrain and Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin, who had won silver in the men’s road race.
It also identified three other athletes whose blood levels indicated traces of the third-generation erythropoietin CERA, which at the time had just come onto the market and a test for which was only finalized during the Games.
The IOC got wind of rumors that athletes may have been able to use the drug before it was commercialized and re-tested a handful of samples from the Turin Games in 2006 but nothing was found.
Fresh tests were also conducted on samples from the Athens Games in 2004 shortly before the eight-year time limit expired last year and led to the disqualification of five medalists - the majority of them eastern Europeans in athletics field events.