Following claims by a German TV programme, the IOC confirms it has started testing frozen urine samples.
Hundreds of urine samples have tested positive for heavy-duty anabolic steroids in recent months after they were analysed by scientists in laboratories in Cologne and Moscow using a new testing method, according to a report broadcast on German television on Monday night.
The substances detected were Oral-Turinabol, a steroid widely used in the state-run doping programme of the former East Germany, and stanozolol, the drug for which Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
Officials from the two laboratories told the TV programme Sport Inside that all of the samples would have produced negative results in 2012 due to the short detection window available at the time but a new testing procedure, known as the ‘long-term metabolites method’, meant steroids could now be detected more than six months after they were taken.
Arne Ljungqvist, the chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission, said he was surprised by the high number of positive cases and would be recommending that urine samples frozen from previous Olympic Games should be retested.
“This case is a good example of the necessity of performing retests on Olympic doping samples,” said Ljungqvist. “I would certainly conduct retests here. We have the mandate for that, after all.”
On Monday night the IOC confirmed that the process had already begun with samples provided during the 2006 Winter Games in Turin.
The identity of many of those who have recently failed drug tests has yet to be revealed, though two track and field athletes are known to have tested positive for Oral-Turinabol at the World Championships in Moscow in August.
They are Ukrainian Roman Avramenko, who finished fifth in the men’s javelin, and Turkmenistan sprinter Yelena Ryabova, who was eliminated in the heats of the women’s 200 metres.
Grigory Rodchenkov, head of the Moscow laboratory, told the TV programme: “With this detection method, a hundred urine samples have now tested positive that would previously have turned up negative.”
A similar story was reported in Cologne, where scientists have uncovered a glut of positive cases, including more than a hundred involving stanozolol.
Cologne laboratory analyst Hans Geyer said: “By my count, we have hundreds of positive cases that we would otherwise never have found.”
He added that samples stored from all major sporting events, not just the Olympics, should now be retested for the presence of steroids.
“With these improved procedures, it will definitely be possible to isolate positive cases in high-risk sports,” he said.
Oral-Turinabol was first manufactured in East Germany in the 1960s and became the steroid of choice in the old Eastern bloc.
Although strongly performance-enhancing, it also known to cause side-effects such as the growth of body hair and a deepening of the voice in women, as well as long-term liver and heart problems.