With the London Olympics just around the corner, some athletes who competed at the Athens Games in 2004 might soon get a very nasty surprise.
Khalid Galant, chief executive officer of the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS), said some of the blood samples taken during the Athens Olympics and subsequently frozen, will be tested with the new technology that is now available.
Doping samples from each Olympics are stored for eight years to allow for them to be reanalysed once new testing methods are validated. The eight-year period for samples from Athens will expire on 29 August, the date on which the 2004 Games finished.
"This is why the case of Lance Armstrong will be an interesting one to see what tests will be done on samples of frozen blood over the past eight years," he said.
Galant reacted after the Russian Athletics Federation announced on Tuesday that it has handed two-year bans to runners Svetlana Klyuka, Nailya Yulamanova and Yevgenia Zinurova for doping offences.
Klyuka, 33, came fourth in the 800m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Yulamanova, 31, won marathon gold at the 2010 European championships in Barcelona, while Zinurova won the 800m at the 2011 European indoor championships in Paris.
Towards the end of June Brazilian swimmer Glauber Silva was banned for two years for failing a doping test.
Silva, who had qualified for the 100m butterfly at the Games in London, tested positive for the banned steroid testosterone on May 12 at the Brazilian Olympic trials in Rio de Janeiro.
A tribunal ruled that Glauber's test was "consistent with the use of a steroid" and recommended applying a ban of two years.
The 25-year-old was not among the medal favourites in the Brazilian men's swimming team that also features Olympic 50m freestyle champion Cesar Cielo.
Cielo tested positive for the diuretic furosemide after last year's Brazilian swimming championships but the Brazilian swimming federation ruled it was accidental and only handed him a warning. He went on to compete in the World Championships in Shanghai.
But Galant says one cannot assume that because positive tests are on the increase, that doping is on the rise – especially in certain countries.
"There are a lot of factors involved, like the size of the population and the sport in which it happens. There is always a cat-and-mouse situation with the development of the designer drugs and the tests done to expose them," he said.
South African long jumper Luvo Manyonga was withdrawn from Team SA for using a banned substance.
"Huge advantages have been made in what we can detect to control doping in sport, with new testing methods and the use of more targeted testing at events based on suspicious performances and intelligence information pertaining to doping.
"South Africa made a pledge to the International Olympic committee that all athletes in the team will be tested. Even our swimming team that left a while ago for Europe will be monitored by the Italian and French doping control. The team is being tested on a regular basis," he said.
In a recent interview, David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-doping Agency, said that South Africa is probably one of the most committed countries to the movement and the leader of anti-doping on the continent.
"There are around 260 000 doping tests done around the world each year and one or two percent of those turn out to be positive. However, we think doping at elite level is double those figures – more than ten percent," he said at a recent conference.
Galant believes not all is doom and gloom.
"With all the tests that are done on the athletes I believe we must still be optimistic. I truly believe that the majority of athletes still play fair and it is the minority that will go the route of doping," he said.