AFL 3 years ago

WADA’s “Abnormal” finding explained… sort of.

  • WADA’s “Abnormal” finding explained… sort of.

There are many questions that surround the Essendon doping scandal. How complicated is this scandal is not one of these questions. In a new revelation, WADA has exercised its right to submit new evidence in the de novo hearing and submitted the results of urine samples that have shown something interesting to their case.

WADA have sent further samples from the frozen urine to a lab in Cologne with instructions to look for anomalies regarding Thymosin Beta 4, the drug at the centre of the scandal. The lab has reported that in 2 of the 27 samples sent, higher than expected readings of Thymosin Beta 4 were present.

Despite this finding, this is not a clear cut case or a positive test. Thymosin Beta 4 occurs naturally in the human body while the injectable form is exogenous, or synthetic. A popular misconception is that this drug is a performance enhancing drug when it isn’t. It is merely a recovery agent which assists in the bodies healing process.

It is banned from use in sport by the WADA Code as it does not yet have its therapeutic use approval. A related compound, Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP is legal.

Because Thymosin Beta 4 is endogenous, or naturally occurring, the levels found in humans can vary based on an individual’s age or gender, any injuries, the time of day and other factors. This means that for this result to be useful to WADA's case against the Essendon 34, they would need to show that the levels found are a sign that the Thymosin Beta 4 was artificially introduced into the players system.

This will be difficult as the normal range of Thymosin Beta 4 in humans is not yet quantified, so WADA is in essence comparing to the proverbial length of a piece of string. However, if they are able to show this, despite having only 2 results showing the elevated Thymosin Beta 4, WADA does have a case against all 34 players.

Thymosin Beta 4 has a very small testing window, the time between being administered the drug and having a result in a sample. WADA can still argue that despite the small number of samples showing elevated signs of Thymosin Beta 4, the consent forms for participation in the program means that all the players in the program were administered with the drug.

However without a full toxicology report to put this finding into context, WADA is still relying on a highly circumstantial case with this piece of evidence arguably only adding another circumstance instead of the smoking gun a positive test would have been.

Chip Le Grand, writer for the Australian in a telephone interview with SEN stated that WADA had put this in around page 20 of their evidence brief, suggesting that the weight WADA will use to rely on this evidence is not the weight expected of a smoking gun piece of evidence.

Ultimately, this means that while this result is an interesting development, it is far from conclusive. Without further evidence and information, it is far too early to start guessing the fate of the Essendon 34.

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