In the general euphoria transmitted “to unified networks” by the RCS editorial group (big italian newspaper “Gazzetta dello sport” and “Corriere della sera” that in the last week have claimed in one way the conspiracy theory against Schwazer), newspapers and televisions that talk about the case have given almost no space to the voice of World Athletics (formerly IAAF), the offended part against the former South Tyrolean athlete still disqualified for doping until 2024 and under criminal investigation precisely because of the testosterone positivity of 2016. In a criminal trial that has not yet begun and perhaps will never begin, we have still been in preliminary investigations for 4 years and the “ball” has passed to Prosecutor Giancarlo Bramante, who in the coming weeks will evaluate whether to propose to the Judge Walter Pelino to start the real criminal trial or request the closing with a dismissal of the case. In this matter, World Athletics has chosen Prof. Emiliano Giardina, geneticist at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, as part expert, known in Italy for his technical and scientific role in the research and verification of biological traces of numerous cases of crime, including those of the assassinations of Yara Gambirasio and Meredith Kercher. We were able to contact the Professor who immediately made himself available to answer our questions.
Good morning Professor. I imagine that many journalists have already called you to find out your opinion.
“Not at all, you were the first and the only ones to call me together with “Il Fatto Quotidiano” [independent newspaper]”
The newspapers talk about anomalous, non-human and even alien DNA…is that so?
“Of course not, the headlines are exaggerated. The amount of DNA in Alex Schwazer’s urine is not so high that it is considered abnormal. Just remember that in the urine of one of the people used by the RIS [Scientific Investigation Department – Carabinieri Italy] comparison tests, has been found a DNA concentration of 8500 pg/ul (picograms/microliter)”
Can you be more precise without getting too technical?
“DNA in human urine derives from the presence of residues of red blood cells, epithelial cells, etc. The quantity varies in the individual and between individuals. It’s not necessarily a symptom of pathologies. The presence of semen residues (sperm) is also possible. In any case, the amount of genetic material in the urine is not a very studied parameter … there must be a reason”
Many sportsmen (coaches and athletes) who have contacted us are amazed that the hypothesis of microhematuria after physical exercise has never been mentioned, frequent and absolutely benign condition that disappears even in 24 hours and can be due to repeated trauma to the kidney or bladder of runners and cyclists. And it is known that Schwazer in addition to doing long and intense training, often integrated with bicycle sessions at home on the rollers. Moreover, Schwazer recently declared on TV SKY Italia that on the day of the anti-doping test (January 1, 2016) he had returned from 40 km of training. It could be an explanation for the increased amount of DNA in the urine?
“It is one of the possibilities. Trying to find an explanation is a difficult exercise. The experimentation conducted shows that the amount of DNA in Alex Schwazer’s urine is absolutely detectable in the healthy human population.”
Forgive me the double negative, so you think nothing of non-physiological?
“Exactly, nothing of non-physiological”
In court there was a clash between you and Colonel Lago [judge’s expert in DNA reserch]? The 37 athletes used for the RIS expertise are not too few?
“Colonel Lago is an experienced geneticist, whom I respect and continue to respect. We do not agree on the interpretation of the data of his experimentation. It happens between scientists.”
We come to the hypothesis that so much “heats up” italian newspapers. Let’s take a person’s “doped” urine, we pass it under infrared rays to cancel his DNA, pthen we add Alex Schwazer’s concentrated urine with enough DNA to cover any other people’s residues of DNA. Apart from the involvement of dozens of people of various nationalities and roles, all of this is doable?
“In criminal processes usually we search for the presence of DNA of one or more people, not the quantity. The urine contained in sample B analyzed by Colonel Lago was in the same container that was closed in the presence of the athlete. Within this urine, with the respect of the contradictory, a doping substance and a single DNA was found: that of Alex Schwazer. The experimentation of Col. Lago, which I repeat was conducted with scientific rigor and professionalism, shows that the amount of DNA detected in Alex Schwazer’s urine could have been higher at the time of collection, but that it must be considered a value found in the human population.”
Last question. Let’s say that I have to undergo a urine doping control and I manage to drop some of my saliva inside the tube that collects them. Would I be able to increase the concentration of my DNA in them?
“No, this is a hypothesis to be excluded. As well as, honestly, those aired by Alex Schwazer’s lawyers about the alleged possibility of altering urine in a sealed container. The assumptions must be plausible. These are not.”