Anti-doping head smells rat in 'super mouse' research

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Fears that the spate of recent discoveries in genetics could be used by dopers in sport – even if the testing has been carried out only on rodents – were confirmed yesterday by the outgoing president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dick Pound.

"The group of genetic research scientists we work with studying increases in muscle mass say 50 per cent of their emails come from the world of sport – saying, 'We'll try out what you're doing'," Pound said yesterday. "The scientists point out they're working on rats, and the answers come back, 'We don't care'."

Last week The Independent revealed that research geneticists have developed a super mouse which can run up to six kilometres at 20 metres per minute.

"These developments are fabulous and can do a lot of good therapeutically, but there is a risk they will be misapplied," Pound said.

Pound was speaking at the opening of a three-day congress here where major revisions to the World Anti-Doping Code are expected to be approved. As of 1 January 2009, provisional sanctions will be applied after positive 'A' tests, and penalties for doping offences will be made much more flexible, rather than the current across-the-board two- year ban for first-timers.

The Canadian, whose successor will be chosen by the congress this week, insisted that "we pretty much have all the tools we need [to fight doping]", but recognised there were cases that had slipped through the net, such as the disgraced American athlete Marion Jones, who took 160 tests and never failed one.

l No positive results were recorded from the 212 drugs tests carried out at the recent Rugby World Cup, the International Rugby Board said yesterday.