LONDON(AP) Athletes anxious about the retesting of their doping samples from the Beijing Olympics will be kept hanging for a while longer.
The International Olympic Committee says it will be several more weeks before scientists start reanalyzing the 1,000 or so samples, and the final results might not be announced for months.
``We will probably start after Christmas and have the results maybe at the end of the first quarter of 2009,'' IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The IOC announced on Oct. 8 that it would recheck Beijing samples to look for traces of CERA, a new version of the endurance-enhancing hormone EPO.
No test for CERA was available in Beijing, but a new blood test developed by the French Anti-Doping Agency has exposed four Tour de France riders for using the blood-boosting substance.
Schamasch said the Beijing samples also will be checked for insulin, a hormone which can serve as an anabolic agent to enhance an athlete's performance.
The IOC banned the use of insulin by non-diabetic athletes in 1998, but a reliable test only recently was perfected by the lab in Cologne, Germany, Schamasch said.
The IOC freezes and stores samples from the Olympics for eight years, making them available when new detection methods are devised. Any athletes caught by new tests can be sanctioned and stripped of their results and medals.
The Beijing samples have been sent to the lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, where they are undergoing a process to ensure they are valid. Officials are deciding exactly how many to analyze and which methods to use.
``About 1,000 altogether,'' Schamasch said. ``We want to do this intelligently. We will work on everything we think is relevant and realistic.''
Schamasch said most samples likely will be analyzed in Lausanne, but some could be shipped to the Cologne lab for the insulin tests.
The IOC hopes to analyze remaining ``A'' samples because testing of backup ``B'' samples would require the presence of the athletes or their representatives.
The tests are expensive. Schamasch estimated the cost of a single CERA test at $250 and $200 for insulin.
The IOC conducted more than 5,000 doping tests during the Beijing Olympics, including nearly 1,000 blood screenings.
Six athletes tested positive during the Beijing Games.
Three additional cases became known after the games and are still pending. Rulings on the cases of Belarusian hammer throwers Vadim Devyatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan and Polish canoeist Adam Seroczynski are expected at the IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne next month.