Science & Environment

London 2012: Cleaners set to spy on dopers

Artist's impression of London's Olympic stadium
Image caption Some 5,000 tests for performance enhancing drugs will be carried out during the London games

Cleaning and security staff will be tasked with informing on doping cheats during next summer's Olympics games.

Anti doping officials say they will be educating cleaners and other staff to report suspicious behaviours or materials.

A record 5,000 tests for performance enhancing drugs will be carried out during the period of the London games.

But researchers believe that testing based on intelligence from law enforcement, customs and cleaners would be more effective.

Anti doping officials say that even with what they term a "world record" amount of testing at the 2012 Olympics, the chances of catching determined cheats would still be low.

Speaking at a meeting in London, Jonathan Harris anti-doping medical services manager for the organisers said that gathering as much information as possible on doping athletes was crucial to the success of testing.

"There will be intelligence sources coming from security and from cleaning for example - these are functional areas that have been involved in anti-doping in previous games, we will be educating those personnel in those functional areas so that if they should come across behaviours that are untoward they share that information with us"

There have been several instances in past Olympics of cleaning staff coming across materials that may have been evidence of doping. At the winter games in Salt Lake City in 2002, cleaners found blood transfusion equipment in the rubbish of a house rented by the Austrian ski team - several members of the team were subsequently banned.

In London, anti-doping officials will meet daily during the games to analyse the intelligence and decide where to focus their tests.

The chief executive of UK anti doping, Andy Parkinson, said intelligence was playing an increasingly important part in the testing process.

"Perhaps the most important bit from our side, is that we utilise the gateway we have into law enforcement to protect the integrity of the games. We can share information with the serious organised crime agency, with the UK borders agency. Our role is to provide that channel if you like so that we can advise and support the IOC to make sure there is public confidence in the games."

Scientists are also hoping that as well as extra intelligence they will also have another test for human growth hormone ready in time for the Olympics.

The first test, called the "isoform approach" was introduced in 2004. The test detects synthetic hgh as it differs slightly from the natural hormone produced in the pituitary gland.

However this test can only catch dopers within 72 hours of an athlete using hgh. The new approach, called the biomarker test looks for indirect evidence of hgh use. The major benefit of the new test is that it can detect hgh doping up to 14 days after use.

At a meeting on science and ethics in sport in London, Dr Larry Bowers, chief scientist for the US anti-doping agency said that while the new test was not yet validated, it was fit for purpose.

"The two tests are complementary, we're still at the final stages having WADA validate and approve the second one. Both tests will exist in parallel, the give us different information at different times so I think both will be used for a long time."

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