IOC hails absence of doping cases so far

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) - With no positive tests recorded more than halfway through the Sochi Olympics, the IOC believes the stringent anti-doping net put in place for the games has scared cheaters away.

Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the IOC medical commission, said Saturday he was not surprised that there have been no doping cases so far at the Winter Games.

He said the beefed-up program of targeted pre-games and pre-competition testing - as well as the storage of doping samples for 10 years - was working as a strong deterrent.

“It’s expected that people don’t cheat and those who do are not here,” Ljungqvist said, noting that only one positive case was recorded at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

“It shows that the program is pretty efficient and serves as a deterrent,” he said. “I hope it will stay that way throughout the games.”

Through Friday night, Sochi organizers had conducted 1,799 drug tests, more than half of the planned total of 2,453 for the entire games. Of those carried out so far, 1,140 were pre-competition tests and 659 standard post-competition controls.

Ljungqvist was asked whether the reason there have been few positive tests at Winter Games is that cheaters are ahead of the testers.

“I put my money on our scientists,” he said. “They are probably smarter than those around the athletes.”

The IOC is focusing its efforts on unannounced tests away from the competitions, considered the most effective way of nabbing any cheaters. Athletes and sports considered most at risk are targeted for testing, based on intelligence provided by authorities, athletes and previous test results.

The majority of tests are conducted in strength and endurance sports, notably cross-country skiing and biathlon, events where the use of EPO and other blood-boosting drugs can aid stamina.

The IOC also stores Olympic doping samples for retesting years later when new methods become available. The storage period has been extended from eight to 10 years under the next World Anti-Doping Code.

“The message to the athletes is that if you cheat, if you take drugs, if we don’t find you now, we may find you later and we will certainly find you sooner or later,” Ljungqvist said.

The IOC recently retested 350 samples from the 2006 Turin Winter Games, but has not released the findings.

The Estonian Olympic Committee said last week that retired cross-country ski champion Kristina Smigun-Vahi was under investigation by the IOC for a positive sample from Turin.

Smigun-Vahi, who won two gold medals in Turin, in the 10K classical race and the 15K skiathlon, denied ever using banned substances.

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