(Adds details, quotes, USADA comment)
By Gene Cherry
Jan 31 (Reuters) - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has recommended the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang use an older version of doping sample bottles after concerns were raised about the latest model, the agency said on Wednesday.
The recommendation, to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), came after it was confirmed a portion of the new generation bottles are susceptible to manual opening without evidence of tampering, whether they have been frozen or not, WADA said in a statement.
Previously it was thought a problem existed with the newer bottles only when they were frozen.
The Winter Olympics begin on Feb. 9.
The IOC was not immediately available for comment but earlier had said it was concerned about the new bottles.
“At this stage, our clear recommendation to the IOC is that it continue to use the earlier model, which is still used by a number of testing authorities around the world,” WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said.
“This should be seen as a precautionary measure that guarantees the integrity of the doping control process at the Games.”
WADA said it had managed to find enough kits of the earlier model bottles used at the 2016 Rio Games to cover the entire testing program for Pyeongchang.
WADA began an investigation into the new model, released in 2017, after the accredited laboratory in Cologne, Germany, had discovered they may potentially be susceptible to manual opening “upon freezing”.
WADA said they had advised anti-doping agencies who only have the newest security bottles available to continue to use them in the short-term until stock of other kits can be obtained rather than suspend testing.
Anti-doping agencies had turned to newer bottles after a major doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, who earlier had thought the newer generation bottles could be used at the Winter Olympics if they were not frozen, said he supported WADA’s recommendation.
“It’s obvious after watching the (German broadcaster) ARD documentary released today that the problems with the (newer) bottles also can happen, even if not frozen,” Tygart told Reuters.
“Given this, it’s critical these bottles are replaced for the Games.
“This whole episode shows exactly why we need to push the pedal for new, innovative technologies and products to better support clean athletes and restore their faith in the global anti-doping system.”
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury