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US press says test for plasticizers reportedly used in Contador case could be applied to Texan

An American newspaper is speculating that the federal grand jury currently investigating doping allegations surrounding seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong may call for blood and urine samples taken from the Texan to be retested for traces of plasticizers, which in turn might provide evidence of illegal blood transfusions.

The existence of tests that can detect plasticizers used in blood bags has been in the news in recent days following Alberto Contador’s failed test for clenbuterol during this year’s Tour de France, with media sources in Germany and France suggesting that traces of plasticizers were also found in his urine. Yesterday, The New York Times claimed that those were found in a different sample to the one that has tested positive for clenbuterol.

Armstrong has strenuously denied allegations first made in May this year by former US Postal Service team mate Floyd Landis that blood doping was endemic within the team when the pair rode together between 2002 and 2004, and the New York Daily News now reports that the recently developed test for plasticizers may help settle which of the two is lying.

The newspaper adds that anti-doping experts believe that the test, which is not yet validated for use in instituting disciplinary proceedings but which could provide evidence to support other findings of drug abuse, would be able to find traces of plasticizers in samples irrespective of when they were taken.

"Nothing that I've seen suggests that (the metabolites) would break down during frozen storage," an anti-doping expert familiar with the new test told the newspaper. "I can't see any reason why they would break down. They're not a biological molecule, like EPO or testosterone, they're a completely stable,
synthetic molecule."

According to the newspaper, the federal grand jury conducting the investigation into Armstrong would require no more than a subpoena to obtain past samples provided by the cyclist to the US Anti-Doping agency, while those taken by overseas testers could be secured through a legal process known as “letters rogatory.”

Regarding the prospect of the samples being retested, Armstrong’s spokesman Mark Fabiani told the newspaper that “We have no concerns at all about it."
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

6 comments

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timbola [247 posts] 6 years ago
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Please tell me I am just plain ignorant, but if people are asking for blood samples taken years ago to be retested for plasticisers found in blood bags, what were those blood samples stored in during the intervening years ? Surely not BLOOD BAGS containing plasticisers ?  39

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andylul [410 posts] 6 years ago
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It's a valid question but my understanding is that a plasticiser is something that keeps a material flexible (e.g. water plasticises clay) and is not 'plastic'

There would be no point in keeping samples in a flexible container if they were to be frozen...

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roffem [6 posts] 6 years ago
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It is a Urine test that finds these plasticizers. The blood is transfused into the body from an IV and a urine test picks up the plastics off the iv bag.

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Fish_n_Chips [493 posts] 6 years ago
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Consider how Accurate and Precise the testing will be.

False positives/negatives will be challenged for sure.

If it comes negative then it only backs up Armstrong as genuine!

But if not it would be a dark period in UCI history with Contador etc.

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Gregoire500 [104 posts] 6 years ago
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timbola wrote:

Please tell me I am just plain ignorant, but if people are asking for blood samples taken years ago to be retested for plasticisers found in blood bags, what were those blood samples stored in during the intervening years ? Surely not BLOOD BAGS containing plasticisers ?  39

well you did ask for someone to tell you...

plasticisers are used for transfusions to keep the blood product stable in storage. Blood tests that athletes get taken are, of course, totally unadulterated by any lab and stored in small test tubes. What the article is saying is that whilst EPO or other doping substance may be unstable and break down over time, the plasticiser wouldn't, leaving irrefutable proof that a transfusion had been given.

Do you think it likely that scientists who have commited their lives to studies in this area would make such an elementary mistake, or is this another ill-advised save Saint Lance by discrediting the messenger attempt?

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jova54 [667 posts] 6 years ago
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If plasticisers never break down then surely Armstrong would have traces of them in his blood from when he had surgery for his cancer, or is that too simple??