Berlinger are withdrawing from the sample collection business after experiencing more problems ©Getty Images

Swiss manufacturer Berlinger have announced they will withdraw from the doping control business in the "medium term" after the reporting of more problems with their sample collection bottles.

It follows customer feedback earlier this month that a "limited" number of bottles had cracked when frozen.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has begun a process to "actively explore" alternative sources of sample collection kits.

"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," a Berlinger statement said.

This will include the Winter Paralympic Games, which opened in Pyeongchang last night and is due to last until March 18, for "as long as stocks last".

Concerns over sample tampering have risen across the anti-doping landscape as a result of the scheme operated by Russia at their home Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games at Sochi in 2014 where clean samples supposedly replaced tainted ones.

Berlinger claimed that "increasingly institutionalised forms of doping malpractice" had increased and changed the demands made on its anti-doping kits.

"These developments are not only damaging to sport: they have become increasingly incompatible with our corporate values and core competencies," said the company's Board chair, Andrea Berlinger.

“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.”

The news raises fresh concerns over whether the integrity of the anti-doping process at events, including last month's Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, have been compromised by the problems.

Sample collection kits developed by Berlinger were used at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang as well as the ongoing Paralympic Games ©Getty Images
Sample collection kits developed by Berlinger were used at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang as well as the ongoing Paralympic Games ©Getty Images

WADA launched an investigation in January following claims that the new-generation BEREG-KIT Geneva security bottles, made by Berlinger, could potentially be opened.

German journalist Hajo Seppelt claimed in a documentary on ARD that they had been able to open sealed containers "without trace".

WADA recommended that the new version should not be used at Pyeongchang 2018 and that organisers should continue to use the BEREG-KIT 2016, released for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which they claimed to be satisfied with.

It is now possible, however, that even the older version may be susceptible to problems.

"On 2 March, WADA was advised by Berlinger that feedback from one of its customers had raised possible concerns over the integrity of some of its bottles and that it had initiated an examination," the anti-doping body said.

"Specifically, the customer reported that a limited number of bottles had cracked when frozen. 

"This cracking was noticed mainly in the 'BEREG-KIT Geneva' model, the production of which Berlinger had discontinued due to reports of improper closing in January 2018; and, to a much lesser extent, in the latest batch of the 'BEREG-KIT' model."

WADA claim they "immediately sought to collect more information from Berlinger as to the specifics and scale of the alleged integrity issues in order to ensure an effective and quick solution was developed" while also communicating with other anti-doping bodies.

"To the best of WADA’s understanding, no others have experienced a similar issue to date," they concluded.

Berlinger also claimed in their statement that test results confirmed that "the risk of such breakage is a manageable one".