New blood test hits the spot

  • Integrity Blog

There’s a new type of anti-doping test on the scene and you’ll be seeing it in action soon.

Dried Blood Spot (DBS) Testing was approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2021 as a new anti-doping test to detect prohibited substances. Certain parts of the DBS process were implemented at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it was fully introduced in Beijing 2022.

While DBS is not a new technique (it’s been used for decades in newborn screening tests), the application to anti-doping has emerged as another tool to identify the use of prohibited substances in sport.

A much less invasive method than venepuncture or urine collection, DBS sample collection uses a small amount of blood taken from a special device that attaches to an athlete’s upper arm (or in some cases their stomach). This is unlike a normal blood sample which is drawn from an athlete’s veins in their arm. 

  • The blood is collected and dried on absorbent material, then sealed securely and sent to a WADA-accredited lab for analysis.  

Because DBS does not require a vein to be punctured, DBS samples do not require a specialised Blood Collection Officer and can be collected by the Doping Control Officer. 

  • Both A and B samples are collected within the same device, limiting the number of holes we will need to put in an athlete's arm (or stomach).   

It’s important to note that DBS samples test for different substances to traditional blood and urine samples, so it won’t replace traditional blood or urine testing, and as such, athletes don’t get to choose DBS instead of another blood or urine test. 

  • The type of test is determined by Sport Integrity Australia when we are planning the mission.  

Benefits of DBS

  • Less invasive  
  • Less painful  
  • Smaller needle  
  • Less blood required (about 25x less)  
  • Unlike traditional blood collection, does not require a long resting period after exercise.
  • It is cheaper
  • Allows for greater testing in remote areas of the world

Keep an eye out for DBS testing to commence in Australia as part of the Sport Integrity Australia testing regime early next year. 

Further reading