By Phillip Whitten
PUNTA DEL ESTE, Uruguay, November 19. SWIMMERS who clock world record times will automatically be tested for banned endurance enhancer EPO (erythropoietin),
the sport's world governing body FINA announced here Tuesday.
FINA has amended article 6.2 of its regulations so that any world record will now only become official if the swimmer concerned tests negative for EPO.
The decision marks the end of a long journey that began in 1993 when Swimming World began editorializing on the need to develop a test for EPO and administer it in all major competitions. Along the way, the IOC, under Juan Antonio Samaranch, allegedly deliberately torpedoed a promising proposal to develop such a test by American scientist, Allen K. Murray.
However, in the wake of continuing scandals involving EPO, primarily in cycling, the IOC eventually gave the green light to research to develop a reliable EPO test. Two tests were developed in advance of the 2000 olympics: a blood test by Australian researchers and a urine test by French Scientists. The two tests were used together in Sydney, though they were not utilized at the 2002 European Championships or Asian Games.
FINA's action comes after the American Swimming CXoaches Association suggested to Dale Neuburger, a FINA Vice President, that he push for mandatory EPO tests for all world record-setters in swimming. It was Neuburger who shepherded the proposal to its adoption by FINA today.
EPO stimulates red blood cell production and is normally produced in the kidney and liver. Using an artificial form of EPO allows athletes to boost
oxygen production allowing muscles to work harder and for longer.
Track and field athletes — particularly distance runners — have long been thought to be using EPO, and several have tested positive for the substance. At this year's Winter Olympics in Salt lake City, a number of cross country skiers tested positive for darbopoetin, an EPO-derivative. As a result, some of their medals — though not all — were rescinded.
FINA announced it will test all world record setters, taking a urine sample, within 24 hours of their feat and sending it to an IOC-accredited laboratory. The record performance will become official only if the test proves negative. Presumably a positive test will result in sanctions under FINA rules.