In a move that will be greeted with much relief in the anti-doping sector, Berlinger has decided to continue producing sample bottles for at least the next 12 months.
Andrea Berlinger Schwyter, the Swiss company’s President and chief executive, made the disclosure yesterday in a letter to customers.
Her letter appears to leave open the possibility that production of the bottles could even continue beyond April 2019.
In an intriguingly-worded passage, Berlinger said that any further production of the kits beyond May 2019 "under a new strategic business constellation would depend on demand and on possible collaborations or business models with further market participants".
This wording is vague enough to cover many possible arrangements.
However, among organisations with which the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has had preliminary discussions in the wake of Berlinger’s March announcement that it intended to withdraw from the market is an entity called LockCon.
This was represented by two individuals who are thought to be former employees of Berlinger.
It seems reasonable to imagine that one possible future collaboration might involve Berlinger and LockCon.
In her letter, Berlinger Schwyter attributed the new decision to the outcome of tests conducted by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) in Zurich.
These were commissioned after the company was informed in February that “breakages had been experienced with the security bottles included in the BEREG-Kits used at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, following the freezing of the anti-doping samples concerned”.
According to Berlinger Schwyter, the EMPA results show that the bottles "display no proneness to breakage beyond the normal tolerances as a result of the freezing process" and that urine samples "can also be stored in a standing position with no increased risk of bottle glass breakage".
Prior to this latest decision by the dominant supplier of sample control kits, the anti-doping sector appeared to be facing a race against time to develop new products before residual stocks of Berlinger bottles started to become depleted, with potentially serious consequences for sport’s ability to police doping.
The British company Versapak has developed a new urine transport kit for which it says it is inundated with orders, but other prospective new products are thought to be some way away from coming to market.
The United States Anti-Doping Agencythis week told insidethegames that its Secure Doping Control venture with Major League Baseball would "hopefully"have a product or products available “by the end of the year”.
WADA this week emphasised that Berlinger was “still very much involved in this situation as we all endeavour to make sure there is no break in supply”.
It said it had received “no reports of cracked Berlinger bottles following freezing from any accredited laboratory, anti-doping organisation or sample collection provider”.