September 23, 2004

More about the blood testing

Hamilton's team, Phonak, issued a statement today that they will be forming a scientific review board:

Because neither UCI nor IOC have so far disclosed data and because legal procedures may last for a long time without a clear outcome, the team management has decided to establish a scientific board in order to achieve clarity as to the medical method and reliability of these new blood testing tools. This scientific board will consist of various scientists with outstanding reputation in this field. Those scientists will be teamed up from different sources and will look into the entire method and data and report as to whether the analysis conducted at the lab in Lausanne in connection with the B-testing is reliable. In order that the scientific board can commence its work the entire files have to be released from UCI and/or IOC. This is so far not the case although requested by Tyler Hamilton.

I'm interested in this, not just from a cycling fan perspective, but from the scientific one. I have but a rudimentary understanding of the test used (in fact, I have but a rudimentary understanding of blood)...but apparently the test identifies specific proteins. It sounds to be like each person's blood is unique, and the test will show the proteins from another person's blood, proving a transfusion took place. My thought was...what if an individual person might have multiple of these unique proteins? Are they sure this never happens naturally? If I remember correctly, when blood typing first began, only O, A, and B were obvious differences; AB was discovered later.

I'd be really curious to see if blood from other members of the Hamilton family would come up positive on the same test.

I can't imagine they'd be using the test if it hadn't proven pretty reliable...I am not a conspiracy theorist, after all...but every time I see something medical presented as a definite I think of the scientific certainties that have been questioned or overturned, like ulcers being caused by Helicobacter pylori instead of overproduction of gastric acid.

So like I said yesterday, I'm still waiting.

UPDATE: I found the paper describing the test: Proof of homologous blood transfusion through quantification of blood group antigens, from the journal Haematologica.

Also, from what I see on VeloNews (which explains the first paragrah of the Phonak statement I linked to earlier; which I found a bit confusing), the B-test from the Vuelta came back positive, but the IOC's B-test from the Olympics is negative. So...he keeps his gold? But it does raise a question about the tests, if two samples from the same time period, will have different results...

I'm glued to the internet today, looking for updates on this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: He keeps the gold. The IOC statement, however, is hardly a declaration of innocence.

Posted by Nic at September 23, 2004 10:28 AM

Yeah, that IOC statement ticked me off. They can't prove he did anything wrong, but they certainly aren't going to admit that *they* might be wrong. They'd much rather tarnish his reputation than own up to the possibility that their testing was faulty.

Posted by: Ted at September 25, 2004 03:52 PM
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