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Athletes Face New Drug Tests

A positive test for a banned substance isn't the only reason an American athlete bound for the 2010 Winter Olympics could be suspended for doping under a new program launched by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Behind the scenes, USADA is following several athletes and examining their chemical makeup over a series of blood and urine tests, according to Larry D. Bowers, its chief science officer. Over time, this so-called longitudinal testing could determine an athlete is doping even if he never tests positive for a specific performance-enhancing drug.

"Any U.S. athlete has the potential of being monitored for steroids and other drugs under this longitudinal program," said Bower, a presenter at USADA's international anti-doping symposium in Vancouver last week.

Bowers declined to disclose how many athletes could be monitored before the Vancouver Games in February.

This is a departure from the pilot longitudinal program in which a dozen athletes volunteered to be monitored before the 2008 Olympics.

USADA is thought to be the first national anti-doping organization known to be testing athletes in this manner; the International Cycling Union began longitudinal testing last year.

USADA spokeswoman Erin Hannan said the organization is confident any positives that arise as a result of the new methods could survive a court challenge and pointed to the case of sprinter Michelle Collins, who never tested positive but received an eight-year ban after retroactive testing showed she probably doped.

"I think this is another instrument," said Gary Wadler, an anti-doping expert and New York internist. "It's not the instrument. We'll continue to do all (the testing) we can."

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