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The importance of investigating Peter Bol's atypical finding for recombinant EPO

By Chris Lewis - posted Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Aussie track fans need to look past their hope that Peter Bol is innocent of ingesting recombinant Erythropoietin (synthetic EPO).

While the Part A Sample analysis found an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) (positive doping test) for recombinant EPO (rEPO), the Part B Sample analysis found an Atypical Finding (ATF) for recombinant EPO.

Although the part B sample was not conclusive in terms of affirming the positive part A sample, thus allowing Bol to resume training, the relevant rules around an ATF finding now allow for further investigation before guilt or innocence will be implied.


Sports Integrity Australia stated on February 14, "The relevant rules require a WADA-accredited laboratory to obtain a second opinion from an expert on the WADA EPO Working Group before any AAF or ATF for Erythropoietin Receptor Agonists (such as recombinant EPO) can be reported".

Even if a B-sample analysis does not support the A-sample analysis, Sports Integrity Australia could still lay a charge against an athlete for "using" EPO, along with the same penalties.

While Article 2.1 of the World Anti-Doping Code means that an athlete cannot be charged with an Adverse Analytical Finding if the A and B samples do not match, Article 2.2 allows for an athlete to be charged with 'use or attempted use' of a prohibited substance or method even when the samples don't match.

For example, during May 2021, the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a four year sanction imposed by the international cycling union (UCI) on André Cardoso for EPO use, despite analysis of his B sample not matching the positive result from his A sample which meant it was flagged as an ATF.

Any decision made by Sport Integrity Australia is also subject to appeal from the Athletics Integrity Unit and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in line with the Australian National Anti-Doping Policy 2021 and World Anti-Doping Code 2021.

For drug testing agencies, every possible EPO positive is crucial.


At present, it is extremely difficult to catch athletes using synthetic EPO.

While it has been reported that there were 953 AAFs with regard to EPO abuse reported between 2003 and 2020, with many of these findings a direct result of targeted testing due to atypical hematological profiles observed within the Athlete Biological Passport, 2021 WADA testing data shows that 50,940 urine tests for EPO and other EPO-receptor agonists caught just 52 (0.10%) with 4,953 blood tests catching just 14 (0.3%).

The difficulty of catching athletes using synthetic EPO means that clean athletes still face an enormous disadvantage in any event which requires aerobic fitness prowess.

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About the Author

Chris Lewis, who completed a First Class Honours degree and PhD (Commonwealth scholarship) at Monash University, has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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