Shutting out escape routes

In a significant change in the rules regarding thresholds, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) has proposed that the `B' sample should confirm the `A' sample result and the threshold need exceed the prescribed limit for a confirmation.

Even though, no firm scientific support was advoacted at that time, the Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI) was able to raise doubts about the veracity of the tests done at the Seoul laboratory on Sunita Rani's urine sample at the Busan Asian Games by pointing out the huge difference in concentration levels of nandrolone.

Her first test, after the 1500m, showed a level of 21ng/ml urine in the `A' sample and 6ng/ml urine in the `B' sample. The samples of non-pregnant women turning positive for nandrolone are reported when the threshold exceeds 5ng/ml urine. After the last Asian Games, many novices argued with conviction that such difference in levels, like that obtained in the case of Sunita Rani, were unacceptable. There had been problems with such differences in the past, but this has always been a matter of debate.

Now, if WADA has its way, from January 1, 2004 onwards, the new rule on the topic will read:

``The `B' sample result must confirm the `A' sample identification for the adverse analytical finding to be valid. The mean value for the `B' sample finding for substances with a threshold is required to exceed that threshold. However, the uncertainty in the `B' sample concentration shall not be considered in determining whether the `B' sample is greater than the threshold.''

WADA was, in fact, initially in favour of completely removing any threshold cut-offs for the `B' sample. A mere detection, which will stand scientific scrutiny, might have been sufficient had that version of the rule been retained.

In another move, WADA is also doing away with the option of getting `B' samples tested in a different laboratory. Even though existing rules also do not prescribe such a procedure, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had explained that if demanded, the `B' sample could be tested in a different lab.

The Indian side, unaware of any existing procedures, had demanded at Busan that Sunita Rani's `B' test be done at a different laboratory. Of course, the demand was rejected, quoting rules.

The proposed rule says: "The `B' sample confirmation must be performed in the same laboratory as the `A' sample confirmation. A different analyst must perform the `B' analytical procedure. The same individual (s) that performed the `A' analysis may perform instrumental set up and performance checks and verify results.''