Anti-doping laboratory refining test for microdoses of EPO

The new test should allow EPO to be detected up to 48-hours after administration

A French laboratory believes it has discovered a new way to detect 'microdoses' of erythropoietin (EPO).

The Châtenay-Malabry laboratory, which developed the first test for the detection of EPO 20 years ago, said the new test could show traces of the drug 48-hours after it's been administered, as opposed to the current 24-hour window.

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It is believed that microdoses - which have to be taken every two days to have an effect - have been used since the first EPO test was developed, allowing users to gain a performance benefit without being caught.

These microdoses may also allow blood levels to stay high, after they've been artificially raised. reports that the director of the laboratory, Michel Audran, said last year: "The practice may be to make blood transfusions for a fortnight, return to the race with high hemoglobin and maintain levels with microdoses of EPO."

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, he said: "It is important [for cheating athletes] to spend 24 to 48 hours [avoiding] detection, because in these protocols, it is estimated that cheaters make microdoses every two days. "

"We can detect microdoses EPO a minimum of 48 hours after taking, while it is now difficult to arrive at 24 hours. "

He was speaking at the headquarters of the French Agency for the Fight Against Doping (AFLD).

Earlier this year, two amateur cyclists were suspended by the UCI following anti-doping tests allegedly pointing towards EPO use, and this month Colombian cyclist Jarlinson Pantano announced his retirement from cycling following an EPO anti-doping positive test earlier this year - though he says he is innocent.

The test will need to be validated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) before it can be put into use, and it is projected that the improved test could be in action by the beginning of 2020.

It means that less than 10 international units per kilo, which equates to 600 IU for a 60kg rider, could be detected even 48-hours after being administered.

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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.

Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor. 

Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.

Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.