Every four years athletes around the globe aspire to prove their sporting dominance. Host cities for major sporting events are encouraged to deliver excellent venues, without compromising the field of play for the athletes and meet the needs of the city and region to ensure a positive, long-term, sustainable legacy.
Antidoping WADA accredited drug testing programs seek to preserve what is intrinsically valuable about sport; playing true. While athletes constantly feel pressure to be the best, those using performance enhancers are putting themselves at risk of long-term negative effects on their health for short-term rewards.
Preparing a doping control laboratory for big sporting events
We’ve publically watched Professor Francisco Radler, Head of the Brazilian Doping Control Lab – LADETEC – UFRJ prepare his WADA accredited laboratory for months via various news and social media channels. No doubt we’ve realized the science of sport testing is complex and tedious. A wrong answer can tarnish an athlete’s reputation or reward someone undeserving. Talk to anyone that’s ever prepared a laboratory to test for a high volume of athletes for a highly visible sporting event in a short period of time and no doubt they have stories to tell.
In a recent video interview with Select Science, Dr. Radler highlights the complexity of testing more than 6000 samples in less than ten days.
Doping control sample management
Before an athlete’s sample even enters the laboratory, it begins a complex chain of custody process where every effort is made to ensure the identity of the athlete sample remains confidential. From the time a sample enters a laboratory, begins a complex pathway. A typical laboratory aliquots the urine “A” specimen and distributes it within the laboratory for up to or more than 20 different test procedures using various analytical techniques to screen for more than 500 compounds, and additional techniques to confirm if samples are highly suspicious or identified as positive.
Laboratory supplier selection
Selecting a supplier is no simple task. While laboratory preparation and analytical test equipment must be fit for testing and data processing purposes, they must also be able to integrate into complex laboratory sample and data information management systems which not only integrate to laboratory software systems, but can also integrate to the IOC central athlete data repository.
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While the laboratory may be transferring and validating test methods from other institutions, they are also validating cutting edge test methods and their staff’s proficiency to obtain results as expected routinely – in order to obtain and retain accreditation. They rely heavily on their suppliers for technical support for method transfer advice, laboratory workflow optimization and ensuring maximum uptime is achieved during peak testing in often a 1-2 week timeframe. Additionally, major event testing laboratories rely on peer experts in the small world of global athlete testing.
Milestones in antidoping innovation since 2000 and into the future
Not only do the laboratories leverage standard practices set forth by WADA guidelines, but they also commit to advancing the science of sport testing to improve testing authenticity and accuracy.
In 2000, we saw the introduction erythropoietin (EPO) detection test is introduced at the Sydney Games. A few years later, drug testing pioneer D. Catlin identifies norbolethone, the first reported designer anabolic steroid in an athlete’s urine sample. In 2004 the Thermo Scientific™ Orbitrap™ hybrid high-resolution accurate mass spectrometer began being used routinely to test for peptidic prohibited drug screening and today being used to routinely screen athletes for the use of growth hormones and recombinant insulin.
In 2009, WADA introduces the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) Haematological Module to detect blood doping and later in 2014 the Steroidal Module to detect endogenous steroids is administered exogenously via gas chromatography–combustion isotope-ratio mass spectrometry (GC/C/IRMS).
As a result of the reported cheating at the Sochi games, laboratories are beginning to deploy human identification techniques traditionally used by forensic scientists to match sample to athlete in competition.
Research into anti-doping continues, as innovative analytical testing systems and technologies will be needed to combat the ongoing development of new doping agents and dosing methods
Learn more and find the truth
- Visit our online Antidoping community featuring the latest learning content and newest innovations; dedicated to helping you keep sports true
- Related blogs: The High Cost of “Juicing”,To Catch a Sporting Cheat, High Tech Doping: Building Better Testing “Mouse Traps
- Exclusive interview with Professor Radler, Head of the Brazilian Doping Control – mass spectrometry enables top WADA Lab to beat the cheats