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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Doping in the Olympics: The Origins of an Alleged Racket

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In the past, where I worked, urine and blood tests were taken at random every few days, and then the results were reported. Sometimes this report provided a pretty good idea of doping activity. For instance, occasionally it was caught if a particular athlete passed the random test but the actual results were clear of doping. Such reports provided us with a way to track the speed of doping or suggest an athlete who was using to stop before it was too late.

Much of this surveillance work was done by analysis of the positive blood tests with a very crude database called “blinded banking.” This is where the test result itself was not seen, but the circumstantial data (such as the suspicious sample, proximity of the sample to the athlete and the athletes’ suspected whereabouts) were all used to estimate the likely source of the abnormal blood.

The good news is that in the past two years the World Anti-Doping Agency and UCI have been using new anti-doping techniques, mainly telemetry, to obtain more detailed information about the precise location of a positive test. The benefits of these methods for establishing a drug source are twofold. Firstly, the results get better. Secondly, the bad players (who were always hiding behind the “blind testing” approach) have to face tougher penalties.

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