WADA has approved a technical document for dried blood spot testing ©Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Executive Committee has approved a technical document for the use of dried blood spot (DBS) testing, with the hope the method could routinely be used by the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Approval was granted at the Executive Committee yesterday ahead of today's meeting of the Foundation Board, the organisation's highest policy-making body.

The organisation said the document harmonises DBS testing, provides Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs) and WADA-accredited laboratories with specific requirements and procedures for DBS sample collection, transport, analysis and storage.

The WADA say the document will come into effect on September 1.

Certain parts of the process are expected to be implemented at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the organisation hopeful the method can be used at Beijing 2022 in full.

The WADA says it will assist ADOs and WADA-accredited laboratories around the world with progressive implementation of this method to ensure they are ready for its routine use.

"WADA believes in the potential for dried blood spot analysis to become a very valuable addition to the testing programme," said Witold Bańka, WADA President.

"It can be used to complement current anti-doping practice, in particular to facilitate the analysis of unstable compounds and to expand on the number of athletes that can be tested in more remote areas of the world from where traditional blood samples are difficult to transport.

"Given the logistical and cost advantages, DBS will allow testing authorities to target more athletes and collect more samples."

The WADA says the advantages of DBS testing include easier sample collection, less expensive collection and transportation of samples, and less space being required to store samples.

The organisation says the process is invasive compared to current urine and blood collection, as well as requiring a very small volume of blood.

Dried blood spot testing could be routinely used at Beijing 2022 ©Getty Images
Dried blood spot testing could be routinely used at Beijing 2022 ©Getty Images

The method has been developed by WADA in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Testing Agency and NADOs in Australia, China, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

"WADA has been leading a collaboration of ADOs to address all the technical challenges and adapt anti-doping rules to allow for the development of DBS," said Dr. Olivier Rabin, WADA Senior Executive Director for Science and International Partnerships.

"This partnership builds on research conducted by several Anti-Doping Organisations and laboratories around the world, which I would like to thank.

"The approval of this technical document is an important step toward harmonising DBS practice within anti-doping.

"We are aiming to trial certain elements of DBS testing at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo this year before rolling it out for routine use at the Games in Beijing early next year."

The WADA Executive Committee also approved recommendations from the organisation’s Contaminants Working Group for the approval of minimum reporting levels for diuretics and growth promoters.

The working group was established in 2019 to follow up on the work that led WADA to provide guidance on the management of clenbuterol cases and to assess the risks of contaminants appearing in natural and unprocessed food.

The group was asked to assess the risk associated with legitimate medicines based upon real cases and recommend some minimum reporting levels under which concentrations of those identified contaminants may not be systematically reported by laboratories as adverse analytical findings.

"Inadvertent doping due to the contamination of meat or medication is a very complex issue, especially in light of the ever-growing levels of sensitivity achieved in the detection of prohibited substances by WADA-accredited laboratories," Rabin said.

"Fairness for athletes is one of the cornerstones of the World Anti-Doping Code and it is right that as science advances, we do our utmost to distinguish between those who have a doping case to answer and those who genuinely carry no responsibility.

"These minimum reporting levels for contaminants will allow the anti-doping community to better strike that balance and that can only be good for athletes."

Two related technical letters, which will come into effect on June 1 were also approved.

These will allow WADA-accredited laboratories to adjust the levels of selected diuretics, anabolic steroids and growth promoters required to be reported as adverse analytical findings going forward.

The working group is expected to continue its work by looking at a number of other selected substances.