MONTREAL — The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has recommended to the International Olympic Committee that it use 2016 doping sample bottles for the upcoming Winter Olympics after the agency’s inquiry into the 2017 version showed the bottles could be re-opened after a sample was produced.
On Tuesday, the IOC said it was “very concerned” about claims the new sample bottles, provided by Swiss manufacturer Berlinger, could be opened, and the Swedish anti-doping agency said it would stop using them.
WADA said in a statement Wednesday it had confirmed that a proportion of the new generation of BEREG-KIT Geneva security bottles were “susceptible to manual opening without evidence of tampering, whether they have been frozen or not.” Those security bottles were introduced in September 2017.
After determining that some of the newer bottles could be “manually opened after initial proper locking,” WADA said it had sourced enough of the 2016 doping sample bottles, which were first used at the Rio Olympics, to cover the entire testing program for the Pyeongchang Games, which start Feb. 9 in South Korea.
“At this stage, our clear recommendation to the IOC is that it continue to use the earlier model, which is still used by a number of testing authorities around the world. This should be seen as a precautionary measure that guarantees the integrity of the doping control process at the games,” WADA director general Olivier Niggli said.
“For the longer term, WADA will continue to gather information and explore solutions with Berlinger and others in order to maintain the integrity of the process. Berlinger has already agreed to restart production of the 2016 model pending other development.”
The newer doping bottles were introduced last year to increase security after investigators found Russians were able to surreptitiously open bottles at the Sochi Olympics and exchange dirty urine samples with clean ones previously provided by the same athlete.
The IOC said in a statement it was “very concerned about this issue” and asked WADA to ensure the integrity of testing in Pyeongchang.
“From the moment we learned about it, we immediately turned to WADA and asked them to ensure that the anti-doping tests in Pyeongchang can be conducted in a credible and reliable way,” the IOC said Tuesday. “WADA informed us that they were in contact with the bottle manufacturer Berlinger. We have full confidence in WADA that they will find a solution for this issue.”
Peter Strom, the acting manager of the Swedish Sports Confederation’s anti-doping department, said his organization has stopped using the new bottles.
“Unfortunately, our own tests showed that it is possible to open the container for urine samples after they have been frozen without leaving any visible traces of manipulation,” Strom told Swedish broadcaster SVT. “Because of that we will stop all use of these bottles in our tests until further notice.”