London Olympics will be stiffest test yet for athletes who cheat

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London Olympics

London Olympics

THE 2012 Olympic Games in London will be the most risky yet for athletes who take a chance with doping and illegal performance enhancement.

Scientific testing has got so good that cheaters will almost certainly be caught, the Festival of Science in Bradford has heard.

There was no sympathy at yesterday’s session for those who rely on doping to improve athletic abilities. “These athletes are bullies and thieves who are stealing medals away from those who should have them,” said Nicola Newman, director of communications at UK Anti-Doping.

The body has an important educational role in helping athletes who do not cheat to avoid accidentally taking products that might wrongly indicate doping.

Accidental positive readings for enhancement drugs were not uncommon due to the sensitivity of the scientific methods now being used, said Prof Ron Maughan, professor of sport and exercise nutrition at Loughborough University.

He described how if he mixed one teaspoon of a drug like nandarol in a swimming pool full of water and gave each of the 5.2 million people living in Scotland a dose, then all of them would test positive.

Yet supplements such as vitamins or protein may be contaminated with low amounts of proscribed substances and innocent athletes following the rules might not realise the risk, Prof Maughan said.

In one test sample, 15 per cent of supplements contained performance enhancing testosterone but this was not shown as an ingredient.

Another 10 per cent of samples gave ambiguous results. “We have to be vigilant to prosecute the cheats but have to protect the innocent,” he said.

Doping was high on the agenda given the impending Olympics, during which up to 6,000 samples of blood and urine would be tested for illegal substances, said Prof David Cowan of the Drug Control Centre at King’s College London.

It has joined with drug company GSK to set up laboratory facilities to handle these tests, with results delivered within 24 hours, he said. This will be the “riskiest games for cheats”, he added.

The Irish and British ministers for science are to meet in London at a British/Irish science symposium. The meeting should help strengthen connections in the research area between the two countries, according to the Government’s chief scientific adviser.

Prof Patrick Cunningham will announce the symposium this morning. It will include a research meeting and then a later event at the Irish Embassy in London.

British minister of state for research David Willetts and Irish Minister of State Seán Sherlock will attend the meetings.

Science policy as pursued by the two countries will be discussed as well as opportunities for future collaborations.

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