Two cross-country skiers stripped of Olympic gold for blood doping: test may have important deterrent effect
The women’s cross-country relay team from Russia was favored to repeat their Olympic gold medal win when its star athlete was forced to withdraw from the race because the levels of hemoglobin in her blood were over the legal limit. For Larissa Lazutina, an athlete who had been decorated with a “hero of Russia” medal for her performance at the 1998 Nagano games, it was a major upset. Russia’s team leader told the Associated Press that it was a “scandal,” that their skier was clean, and that Russian sportsmen were being specifically “hunted out.” Three days after being disqualified from the relay, Lazutina made history by taking gold in the 30km classical, tying the records for most career golds (six) and most career medals (10) won by a woman at the Olympic Winter Games. She would be stripped of that record-tying gold medal after testing positive for a blood-boosting drug.

This year for the first time, all 700-800 winter endurance athletes – those in biathlon, cross-country, Nordic combined and long and short-track speed skating – were blood tested at least one day prior to competition. Suspicious results were followed by a urine test. Official protocol also called for random race-day blood testing and out-of-competition urine tests.

Johann Muehlegg of Spain was the only triple gold medallist in cross-country skiing in the 2002 games when he, too, was accused of using a performance-enhancing drug to boost his red blood cell count. Muehlegg blamed the special diet he followed leading up to the competition for fluctuating rates of red-blood cell production; anti-doping officials blamed darbepoetin, a drug used to treat anemia that has similar properties to the expressly banned synthetic hormone erythopoeitin (EPO). Muehlegg was stripped of his third gold. The brand new drug, intended to help kidney patients, was the same one used by Lazutina. Frank Shorter, an icon in the world of marathon running who leads the U.S. anti-doping efforts, speculated that the athletes didn’t consider the possibility that a test to detect darbepoetin would be developed at the same time as the drug, in cooperation with the manufacturer.

EPO and darbepoetin boost the production of red blood cells, increasing the amount of oxygen delivered to exercising muscles and yielding as much as a 5 percent advantage in postponing fatigue. This dangerous, banned practice not only provides athletes with an unfair advantage, it can also lead to heart problems or stroke.

The blood test is performed on the Bayer ADVIA 120 Hematology System, which is used to assess erythropoiesis (production of new red blood cells). The information from the blood test, coupled with results from a urine test, determine drug use. Before urine test results are in, however, an athlete may be excluded from a race for “health reasons” if pre-race blood testing finds too high a hemoglobin level.

“We are pleased that the Bayer Diagnostics’ system not only helps protect the health of competing athletes but that it also contributes to the establishment of a level playing field,” said David Okrongly, Ph.D., senior vice president, Research and Development, Laboratory Testing Segment of Bayer Diagnostics. “The goal is that an aggressive testing regimen, which employs both blood and urine testing, will continue to discourage athletes from doping in the first place.” Or, in the words of the World Anti-Doping Agency, “Think positive, test negative.”

National Medical Laboratory Week, April 14 -20: planning guide highlights recruitment
The theme of this year’s national medical laboratory week is “Laboratory Professionals: Quality Care through Quality Testing, “ in recognition of the key role that laboratory professionals play as part of the healthcare delivery team. Quality medical care depends on accurate diagnostic testing.

National Medical Laboratory Week is an opportunity to educate the general public about the life-saving work done behind the scenes in the clinical lab. The ASCP suggests using “Lab Week” to promote the profession in a way that increases community awareness and helps recruit students into the field.

The communications department of your organization may be able to help make a connection to local schools and the media. You can also contact a science teacher, dean or guidance counselor directly, and offer to talk to students about a career in the medical laboratory as a “recession-proof” opportunity in the health field. In addition, you can make your local media aware of this week of recognition, suggesting feature stories on both the shortage and critical role of trained laboratory professionals.

Call 800-621-4142 for ASCP’s Lab Week planning guide, careers video or careers brochure. Or visit

Cytyc acquires Digene, advancing molecular focus on women’s cancer and infectious disease testing
Cytyc Corporation of Boxborough, MA and Digene Corporation of Gaithersburg, MD jointly announced their agreement for Cytyc Corporation to acquire Digene Corporation in a stock and cash tender offer transaction with an aggregate value of $553.7 million.

“We believe that this is an ideal merger for both companies, each leaders in our respective fields,” said Patrick J. Sullivan, Cytyc’s chief executive officer, vice chairman and chairman-elect. “Cytyc’s ThinPrep Pap Test is fast becoming the method of choice for cervical cancer screening and Digene’s Hybrid Capture 2 HPV Test is the clear standard for the identification of human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the cause of greater than 99 percent of cervical cancer cases. In addition, we believe the combined platform of HC 2 technology based upon Digene’s substantial portfolio of intellectual property, together with the ThinPrep collection vial, provides tremendous opportunities for molecular testing of a panel of sexually transmitted diseases and other cancer markers.” Digene Corporation develops, manufactures and markets proprietary DNA and RNA testing systems for screening, monitoring and diagnosis of diseases.

Digene’s Hybrid Capture 2 HPV Test is the only test currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the detection of HPV, and the ThinPrep Pap Test is the only liquid-based cervical cancer screening technology currently approved by the FDA for HPV testing directly from the collection vial. The combined benefits of these two products have recently been validated in the National Cancer Institute’s ALTS trial as a viable patient management strategy for borderline cytology results.

Bio-Rad develops fully automated BSE testing system, expanding Mad Cow screening capabilities
nd02.jpg (10343 bytes)Bio-Rad Laboratories has announced the creation of two new automated platforms for BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Cow disease) testing. These automated systems are the first of their kind and will enable laboratories to increase the speed and security of testing. Full introduction of these systems is expected in the coming months.

In conjunction with these new systems, Bio-Rad is introducing a second-generation BSE screening test, along with the first commercially available Western Blot confirmation test sensitive enough to be used for verification of initial screening results. This new confirmatory test can produce results in just one day, whereas the traditional confirmatory method, Immunohistochemistry (IHC), can be expensive and take up to three days to complete. The new testing is seen as a forward step in preventing BSE from entering the food supply.

Bio-Rad’s BSE test is the most widely used screening method in the world. All products will be subject to regulatory approval.

Executive War College to examine how clinical labs can optimize multi-use of their resources
How does a clinical laboratory get the most from its limited resources in today’s competitive environment? That question will be explored in depth by administrators and pathologists from around the world when they gather at the seventh annual session of the Executive War College on Laboratory and Pathology Management to take place in New Orleans from May 7 to May 9, 2002. Innovative executives from a cross-section of clinical labs will lead educational sessions designed to stimulate creative management ideas and showcase the “latest and best” in lab management.

“Clinical labs are responding to changes in the healthcare system and managed care by wringing more productivity and services out of fewer resources,” said Robert L. Michel, director of the annual Executive War College, and editor-in-chief of The Dark Report, which hosts the conference. “The War College is widely respected for its ability to attract innovative leaders who point the way toward optimal lab performance. It has become known as a can’t miss event for those seeking authoritative reporting on the latest and best in lab management.”