This article seeks to examine the measures that have been put in place to identify and disqualify drug users at the Olympics in London 2012. Hugh Robertson – the UK Minister of Sports and Olympics – stated that “We cannot absolutely guarantee that these will be drug-free games, but we can guarantee that we have got the very best system possible to try and catch anybody who even thinks of cheating.”
Over the last decade, statistics have shown that the number of doping cases reported has consistently decreased at each consecutive Summer Olympics. According to the International Olympics Committee’s January 2010 report, the number of athletes tested in Athens, Greece was 3,667 compared to 4,770 done in Beijing China.
The number of reported doping cases decreased from 26 in 2004 to 20 in 2008. These numbers indicate that measures are being put in place to improve vigilance and reduce the number of doping cases at the Olympics.
Measures being taken to ensure a drug free Olympics:
1. The International Olympic Committee advised that they can appoint the World Anti-Doping Agency and any other Anti-Doping Organization to carry out Doping Controls, on behalf of the IOC, during the Period of the London Olympics, outside of the United Kingdom and at non-Olympic venues inside of the United Kingdom. In addition to this, all athletes shall be subject, during the Period of the Olympic Games to Doping Controls initiated by the IOC at any time or place with no advance notice required to be given to the athletes. These rules stated by the International Olympic Committee will aid anti-doping efforts as tests can be run extensively to prevent cheating.2. The World Anti-Doping Agency has introduced what is called the ‘Athlete Biological Passport’ which will be used at the London Olympics. According to the Anti-Doping Agency, the fundamental principle of the Athlete Biological Passport is based on the monitoring of selected biological variables which indirectly reveal the effects of doping, as opposed to the traditional direct detection of doping. The basis of this biological monitoring throughout an athlete’s sporting career should make any prohibited preparation difficult to implement.
3. The London Organising Committee for Olympic Games on January 19, 2012 unveiled a World-Anti-Doping Agency-accredited anti-doping laboratory. This lab will be used to catch athletes who use performance enhancing drugs during the Olympics. Over one hundred and fifty anti-doping scientists (150) from around the world will be working 24hours a day to ensure fast and accurate results. It was reported by Professor David Cowan of King’s College, head of the doping team that over 6, 250 samples will be tested. This number is a significant improvement to the 4,770 samples collected at Beijing Olympics. This facility was referred to by the British Sports Minister as the “most up-to-date, modern testing lab that exists anywhere in the world.”
4. Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency, David Howan, announced that improved method of testing HGH could be in place for the 2012 Olympics and can detect misuse for several weeks. The new method of detection is called “biomarker”. Its detection period is longer as compared to the “isoform test”. The biomarker test can detect HGH use from 10 days up to 21 days. It is important to note that this new method can be used together with the existing HGH test. One significant difference of the biomarker test is how it detects synthetic growth hormones in the body. The “isoform test” looks for the presence of HGH in the body while the biomarker looks for certain chemicals that were produced by the body after using HGH. This “biomarker” test is a significant improvement to anti-doping technology and will further increase the rate of detection among doping athletes at the London Olympics.
The London Olympics anticipates some 17,000 athletes from 200 countries. It is being argued that despite the large number of athletes, the Olympics will be the most drug free Olympics ever because of the increased vigilance by the World Anti Doping Agency. We have seen that technological advancement has increased the number of samples that can be taken at the Olympics and the fast turnaround rate of the results, the increased number of anti-doping control officers and the implementation of the Athlete’s Passport for continuous monitoring of the blood level. These initiatives for the London Olympics shows the increased vigilance placed not only by the World Anti-Doping Agency but the government of the United Kingdom.
(Extracts taken from the winning essay in the British High Commission’s Essay Competition by Abi-Gaye White B.A, LLB.)