The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has launched a search for a new supplier of sample collection kits after current partner, Swiss technology company Berlinger Special, said it is pulling out of the market.
Berlinger’s decision comes after Wada in January recommended that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) use an earlier 2016 model BEREG-KIT security bottle during the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang amid a potential integrity issue surrounding new-generation bottles.
Wada earlier confirmed that it was investigating a potential issue with the BEREG-KIT Geneva bottles after being informed by its accredited laboratory in the German city of Cologne that they may be susceptible to manual opening upon freezing of a sample. The new bottles were introduced in September last year by Berlinger Special.
Bottle security had become a hot topic when it was discovered that athletes’ analytical results were manipulated and samples swapped at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. This ultimately played a major part in the sanctions placed against Russia for its involvement in a state-sponsored doping scheme.
Berlinger has said it will cease production of its doping control kits in the “medium term”. To avoid jeopardising current anti-doping activities, the company will continue to supply its present customers at their request for a transitional period, in agreement with Wada.
Berlinger has been manufacturing doping control kits featuring special security containers since the 1990s. However, it said that increasingly institutionalised forms of doping malpractice have steadily raised and changed the demands on these anti-doping kits over the years.
“These developments are not only damaging to sport: they have become increasingly incompatible with our corporate values and core competencies,” chairwoman of the board Andrea Berlinger said. “And in view of this, we have taken the strategic decision to make an orderly withdrawal from this business segment over the next few months, and to focus on the high-tech core business of Berlinger & Co. AG.”
Berlinger recently ceased supplying its doping control kits, following cases of breakages of the glass bottles used at a small number of laboratories and in materials tests conducted by the bottle supplier and the EMPA Swiss federal materials testing institute.
In view of this, in agreement with Wada and at the request of existing customers, Berlinger said it is willing to meet the continued demand for the BEREG-Kits used at the recent Pyeongchang Olympics for as long as stocks last.
Wada said in a statement: “Wada will continue gathering information from Berlinger and its customers in order to propose solutions that will maintain the integrity of the doping control process. In parallel, Wada is actively exploring alternative sources of sample collection kits and, to that end, is also collaborating with the iNADO (Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations) and a number of Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs).
“Wada wishes to reassure athletes, anti-doping organisations and other stakeholders that it remains resolutely committed to following up with Berlinger and affected stakeholders as necessary until the matter is resolved and that it will keep stakeholders updated along the way.”