Five big marathons urge blood testingAssociated Press, 3/5/01
LONDON -- Five of the world's top marathons on Monday urged that blood testing be used to combat the spread of banned drugs in sports.
Organizers for marathons in Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London and New York said in a statement that blood testing was an "absolute necessity" for ensuring the integrity of races.
The organizers pressed the International Amateur Athletic Federation and its member bodies to introduce the tests -- both in and out of competition -- as soon as possible.
They stressed that urine tests can't detect those drugs that would be of greatest benefit to marathoners.
"The only way to end the speculation that drugs and other prohibited techniques are used to enhance performance in our sport is to introduce blood testing," said Nick Bitel, chief executive of the London Marathon.
The move was backed by Kenya's Paul Tergat, the world half-marathon champion who will make his marathon debut in London next month.
"I really support this move and I am sure it is another step toward fighting the use of drugs and other prohibited techniques in our sport," he said. "I hope that soon all other marathons and road races will agree with the same rules worldwide."
There has been widespread suspicion that marathon runners have been using banned drugs or methods to boost stamina and endurance. Erythropoietin, or EPO, a synthetic hormone which boosts the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells, is believed to be particularly popular.
A combined urine-blood test for EPO was introduced at the Sydney Olympics. Though no positive findings were recorded, officials said the tests acted as a powerful deterrent.
Researchers are working to develop a more effective stand-alone EPO test that can meet scientific standards and withstand legal challenges.
"The use of drugs and other prohibited techniques to enhance the performance of athletes in marathon racing is contrary to the whole ethos of our sport and we deplore those who use, encourage, administer or facilitate the use of such drugs or techniques," the statement said.
The organizers did not accuse anyone in particular of using banned substances.
"We make no allegations about whether such drugs and techniques are used, or to what extent they are used, by athletes in our sport but for the protection of all runners and the assurance of the public, blood testing is an absolute necessity," they said.
The statement urged the IAAF and other governing bodies to make any necessary rules changes to allow for the tests by Aug. 31. Once the rules are in place, the marathon organizers will try to ensure the tests are done at their events.
The statement also urged the World Anti-Doping Agency to conduct no-notice, out-of-competition blood testing throughout the year.