Labs Help Limit Olympic Cheating
Olympians have provided more than the thrill of competition to an international audience. They have also provided job security for those laboratorians in the UK charged with carrying out drug testing on the athletes.
Drug scandals have made headlines at past events (and afterward) -- case in point, Marion Jones. Jones won five Olympic medals for track and field events for the U.S. in 2000, only to forfeit them in 2007 when she admitted to drug abuse.
Today there are hundreds of drugs on the prohibited list for athletes, and tests are designed to pick up every one. According to a CNN report, 2012 competitors will face the most sophisticated anti-doping operation in the history of the games. The report, excerpted below, gives an idea of the depth of the testing capability:
"More than 6,250 samples of blood and urine will be tested during both the Olympics and Paralympics -- four years ago in Beijing that figure was around 4,500 -- with around 150 scientists on duty around the clock. For the first time in Olympics history, a private sponsor -- pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) -- will be aiding the effort, providing the facilities for the scientists to carry out their work.
"The $30 million state-of-the-art laboratory in Harlow, Essex is a short distance from the Olympic Park in east London and is fully accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)."
Professor David Cowan, director of King's College London's Drug Control Center and chief scientist for the Games, is quoted by CNN as saying, "'These laboratories are the most high-tech labs in the history of the Games, analyzing more samples than ever before," with "super-fast, super-sensitive technologies" capable of detecting prohibited substances. He noted, "Across the range of instrument in the lab, we reckon we can pick up things you haven't even thought of. I'm hoping this will be the Games that actually prove that."
So let's tip our Derbys to British laboratorians who are busy taking the cheating factor out of this thrilling global athletic event.