Beijing to take drug cheats head on

August 1st, 2008 - 4:08 pm ICT by IANS  

By Lou Chen
Beijing, Aug 1 (Xinhua) Chinese anti-doping officials have pledged to enforce a transparent and open doping control system to combat doping cheats and host clean Olympic Games. “We will catch those drug-users and make sure they get penalised as they should be,” said Chen Zhiyu, anti-doping division chief of Beijing Games organizing committee Thursday.

Beijing plans to conduct 4,500 Olympic doping tests, about 25 percent rise from the Athens Games, which witnessed 26 doping cases.

A total of 917 staff will work at 34 doping control stations to collect samples, which will be tested at a lab for about 200 banned substances, Chen said.

At the Beijing Olympics, enhanced tests will be carried out for erythropoietin (EPO), a protein hormone which raises oxygen-rich red blood cells, and human growth hormone (HGH), a substance that boosts strength and speeds recovery. Both are choice performance-enhancers.

“You shall see from the number and types of tests our resolution to host a clean Games. Those who risk using drugs will be filtered out by a clean system,” said Dai Jianping, a Games service deputy chief.

A new test kit can track the use of HGH beyond 48 hours, and the EPO tests are also reliable, said Wu Moutian, deputy director of the Chinese Anti-doping Agency, who oversees the lab.

Battle between drug-users and testers has been perennial, and will be more intense at the Beijing Games.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge predicted that as many as 40 Olympians could test positive for banned substances in Beijing.

Wu declined to make any prediction, and said the results could only be available after all the tests are completed. “My task is to carry out the tests in accordance with international standards. We will catch the cheater when there is one,” he said.

The Olympic doping tests are divided into three phases of sample collection, lab tests and publication of results. The testing period began on July 27 when the athletes’ village opened, and would run until the end of the Games.

“We have strict regulations and standards in accordance with IOC rules, and we have been improving our work to form a rigorous chain of security,” Games anti-doping chief Chen Zhiyu said.

In Beijing, the top five in the events and two randomly-selected athletes will be tested for banned substances like steroids and blood-boosters.

At least one IOC medical representative, a WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) observer and a representative of the sports federations are present at each center when the athletes are tested.

At each centre, urine samples are placed in two different containers. Once sealed, they can only be opened in the lab, so chances of swapping the samples will be minimized, said Chen.

Mirrors are placed on bathroom walls and those tested will be asked to roll up their sleeves to prevent cheats, he added.

All collected specimen are marked, put into suitcases and taken by guarded vehicles to the laboratory near the Olympic venues. The whole process is closely watched.

“People might want to break the rules, but we will make sure they are caught and punished,” Chen said.

“We also try not to make the athletes feel overburdened by the tests,” he added. “Athletes whose events are scheduled late in the day are allowed to be tested back in the village, rather than in the competition venues, so that they can directly go back to rest.”

John Fahey, the WADA president, acknowledged the enormous and sound efforts made by China to host clean Games.

“They have the resources and a world-class laboratory. I have little doubt that they will make real efforts as they had in recent months in the preparation,” said Fahey, according to a video clip on the WADA website.

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