"Wow." According to a study published last month in Blood -- the peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Hematology -- the test used by the WADA to test for the presence of synthetic EPO "can occasionally lead to the false-positive detection ... in post-exercise, protein-rich urine."
This has been hypothesized previously, but I believe this is the first time that this possibility for false positives has been demonstrated in a controlled experiment.
The study describes how the test is performed. Erythropoietin (EPO) is produced by the kidney to induce red blood cell production. Recombinant Human EPO (rhEPO) is manufactured by Amgen as a treatment for anemia and other diseases. It's also used to enhance performance in endurance sports. Natural and synthetic EPO have slightly different molecule electric charge differences. Tests for synthetic EPO use this charge difference to detect the presence of synthetic EPO.
The study shows, however, that post-exercise blood is rich in protein that also might be falsely detected as synthetic EPO.
Furthermore, this Medical News article notes, "Contrary to WADA claim, the Doping Journal analysis of citation impact of earlier publications on Epo testing in urine indicates IOC/WADA method for Epo testing is not scientifically popular or well-established. An in depth analysis of the articles behind the IOCs' urine test for Epo shows these earlier publications missed critical control experiments and were not designed to exclude non-specific false-positive misidentification of other non-Epo urine components. The Doping Journal is an international, peer-reviewed journal on doping science.
Hat tip to Spinopsys for finding this. He comments correctly when he writes, "The ramifications of this being right are quite incredible."
Monique Beullens, Joris R Delanghe, and Mathieu Bollen. "False-positive detection of recombinant human erythropoietin in urine following strenuous physical exercise." Division of Biochemistry, Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium and Department of Clinical Chemistry, University Hospital, Gent, Belgium. Blood Feb 2006. Read the ABSTRACThere. Pay $25 to read the full study here.
I thought of Tyler too, but he tested positivie for homologous blood doping -- that is, having the blood of two different people in his system. I'm not a blood expert, but from what I understand the homologous blood doping test is pretty solid.