Scientists Seek New Ways to Catch Olympic Athletes Sneaking Drugs

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As the Vancouver Olympic Games get closer, scientists are trying to develop more sophisticated tests to catch athletes in the act of sneaking performance-enhancing drugs, reported.

Some of this year’s competitors will be trying just as hard to find ways around the drug tests to get a gold medal.

The Olympic drug police are the first to admit that cheating will occur, and that it is almost impossible to detect all cases. Some of the newest and most effective technologies for identifying illegal performance enhancing-substances won’t even be ready for next week’s games.

Antidoping authorities deal with a surplus of different drugs and injection techniques. There are pharmaceuticals that increase red blood cells, steroids to increase strength, stimulants to boost speed, and even beta-blockers to decrease tremors in some finesse sports, like shooting in the biathlon.

This year, police are especially concerned about gene transfer, a new method that is not even out of research labs yet, where human genes are injected into the muscles to build power.

The biggest concern will be catching athletes who have relied on blood doping – increasing their number of oxygen-rich red blood cells to enhance their endurance. The most common way to accomplish this is by taking medication made for anemic cancer and kidney disease patients. Another way is to actually remove blood from the body, store it, and then inject it soon before a competition. This technique makes catching the athlete almost impossible.

“You raise the bar with more testing, better tests, and you keep driving nails into the whole process so there is not many more ways a doper can move,’’ said Dr. Don Catlin, who founded the first antidoping lab in the United States in 1982. “But I am amazed at their ingenuity.’’

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