OLYMPIC COMMITTEE TACKLES DRUG CHEATS AT BEIJING
The International Olympic Committee – IOC – plans strict measures to tackle drugs cheats at the Beijing Olympics this summer.
At previous Games, athletes caught with only some of the substances on the banned list could be punished but that has now been widened to the whole list. There will also be more random tests and no athlete will be allowed to miss more than one test. "It underlines the IOC’s zero tolerance towards doping," said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies.
The measures come into force from 27 July, the day the Athletes Village opens. The Games run from 8-24 August.
The IOC’s statement comes a day after the new head of the World Anti-Doping Agency – Wada – warned athletes who take human growth hormone (HGH) that they would no longer get away with it. "I would say to any athlete coming here (Beijing) with HGH in their system, beware," said Wada president John Fahey.
Heartened by Wada’s commitment to do more no-notice, out-of-competition testing is Peter Sönksen, emeritus professor of endocrinology at St Thomas’ Hospital in London and a visiting professor at Southampton University, who has studied HGH for over 40 years. He has advised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UK authorities on doping.
"That is good news – it is the only way that test is likely to catch anyone," said Sönksen, who is working with King’s College London, Southampton University, University of Kent and UK Sport, the body which runs Britain’s anti-doping programme, to find a more effective HGH test.
HGH, which occurs naturally in the body, is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and stimulates the growth of muscle, cartilage, and bone. It is made throughout a person’s lifetime but is more plentiful during youth. Its appeal to athletes is that it builds strength, burns off fat and can improve stamina, largely because recovery time from rigorous training is reduced. Another important part of its appeal is that it is relatively risk-free in terms of dope tests. Fahey, however, is determined to challenge the perception that HGH is a "safe" option for cheats.
He added that the Wada-approved test, which relies on urine samples, now had a "detection window" of 72 hours, an improvement from its former accuracy range of just 24 hours. Better still, Sönksen believes he has developed a blood test that can detect HGH for up to two weeks after it was taken.
Fahey also confirmed that the IOC and Beijing organisers will conduct a record 4,500 tests at the Games this summer, the vast majority of which will be urine tests.