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WADA approves alternate specimen collection method for anti-doping in athletics

May 2021 — The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Executive Committee released a Technical Document announcing it approved the use of innovative dried blood spot methods as a new way to collect specimens from athletes competing in the Olympics and other events moving forward.

"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,” said Dr. Olivier Rabin, WADA Senior Executive Director for Science and International Partnerships. Dr. Rabin explained that WADA's decision to begin trialling different methods of DBS was based on research conducted by several anti-doping organizations and laboratories around the world, with the aim of "harmonizing DBS practice within anti-doping."

WADA’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board met virtually in late May 2021 to discuss dried blood spot (DBS) testing and contamination, as well as the agency's governance reforms and responses to challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Executive Committee approved a Technical Document on DBS so that the process for sample collection, transport, analysis and storage is set out for WADA-accredited laboratories and anti-doping Organizations. 

"WADA believes in the potential for dried blood spot analysis to become a very valuable addition to the testing program," said Witold Banka, 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." Mr. Banka added that DBS presents logistical and cost advantages, and will allow testing authorities to target more athletes and collect more samples.

According to the WADA Executive Committee, they believe that dried blood sampling offers the following advantages and benefits:

  • Easy sample collection (e.g. finger-prick or upper arm prick);
  • Less invasive methods than current blood collection methods (venipuncture, phlebotomy) and, therefore, a better athlete experience;
  • The test requires only a very small volume of blood;
  • Less expensive collection and transport of samples;
  • Less space needed to store samples; and
  • Possible benefits with regards to sample stability.

It appears that DBS methods will be added as a complement to other types of specimen collection. While urine sampling is considered messy and can be less specific than blood when analyzing certain compounds, there are likely to be cases where some athletes will still be asked to provide both urine samples and blood samples.

In the past, anti-doping research groups have used Mitra® devices with VAMS® technology from Neoteryx as a dried blood microsampling method to screen athletes for anabolic steroids and other compounds. Mitra devices have fixed-volume VAMS tips that are designed to overcome the hematocrit accuracy issues that are encountered when using traditional DBS filter paper cards for specimen collection. A research group in Italy is also using Mitra devices with VAMS for dried urine microsampling to screen for anabolic steroids. Many believe that microsampling could transform sports drug screening.

This is curated content. For details, please refer to the original WADA Technical Document here, which will become effective September 1, 2021.

Review resources for toxicology labs on analyzing microsamples to screen for drugs, alcohol, and other substances!

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