Australian researchers are set to improve methods of detecting blood doping cheats in elite cycling and are looking for last-minute participants to take part in the study.
The research will look at detecting levels of the performance-enhancing hormone EPO in trained cyclists by observing the body’s response to small doses.
The study, funded by the Australian Government’s Anti-Doping Research Program, is due to run from September to December. It is backed by the World Anti-Doping Agency and has been designed to develop drug-free sport and fairer competition.
The test is also designed to monitor whether current drug detection methods are sufficient to pick up the hormone’s use, especially in what’s known as ‘microdoses’, which are difficult to detect.
While the EPO hormone occurs naturally in the body, injecting additional amounts into the bone marrow produces more red blood cells than normal which can carry more oxygen to muscles and thus enhance endurance.
The study will look to see changes in subjects with small doses of EPO to detect whether athletes may have been taking microdoses of the hormone in competition.
Current testing methods have been criticised for not being sophisticated enough to detect the prevalence of blood doping, especially by those who stop injecting EPO in the weeks before competition.
The study will be conducted by scientists from the Science and Industry against Blood Doping sports research consortium, Melbourne University, Deakin University and the University of Canberra.
Researchers are looking for elite male triathletes or cyclists aged between 18 – 39 who train four to five times a week for two hours and have been doing so for at least the past two years. The study is based in Melbourne and requires lab testing over a 12-week period. Participants would not be able to compete during that time. Subjects receive some financial compensation.
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