Popov calls for DNA and blood testing to catch drugs cheats

Olympic sprint freestyle champion Alex Popov has urged the international swimming federation and the International Olympic Committee to introduce DNA testing as well as blood testing to catch drugs cheats.

The Russian freestyler, who trains at the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS), estimated that 50 percent of swimmers could be using performance enhancing substances going into the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

"I'm not saying I'm sure which guys are clean and which guys are dirty, maybe it's 50-50, but there are a lot of guys who will get into doping to win in Sydney," Popov was quoted saying in Sydney's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

Popov, a world record holder at 100 meters freestyle, supported the introduction of blood testing at the Olympics to broaden the scope of current doping detection systems, which are limited to the analysis of urine samples.

Scientists at the AIS, in Australia's national capital of Canberra, this week said they were confident of having a valid blood test for doping approved by the IOC in time for the Sydney Games.

FINA, swimming's governing body, would have to introduce blood testing, maybe twice a month, and definitely immediately after ceremonies at the Games, said Popov.

He said DNA testing of hair and fingernails, similar to methods used by criminal investigators, could be introduced to detect drug masking agents.

"Probably there's not enough time now," for DNA testing to be introduced, he said. "But it still should be done."

Drugs cheats "are very smart and they find ways to bet the doping controls,' he added.

Popov, an Olympic gold medalist at both 50 and 100 meters, said he and other swimmers including world record holder Ian Thorpe, were doing "two maybe three times" more in training than their rivals just to keep pace with drugs cheats.

Popov's appeal comes after recent media reports linking Australian athletes with a performance enhancing agent called insulin-like growth factor, IGF-1.

IGF-1 is virtually undetectable using contemporary doping testing methods. The Australian government has ordered an investigation into the allegations.

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