Drugs in Sport: 'If some idiot takes drugs, we'll catch them,' claim UK testers

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The Independent Online

Drug cheats heading to next month's Beijing Olympics have been warned by Britain's leading testing team that "if some idiot takes drugs, we will catch them". Professor David Cowan, director of the Drug Control Centre at King's College London, said he was optimistic the Games would be clean but knew there would be challenges. Cowan will be travelling to Beijing to help the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) accredited laboratory during the event.

He was also a member of the International Olympic Committee's Medical Commission at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and a consultant to the laboratory at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games. Andy Parkinson, the new acting director of Drug-Free Sport at UK Sport, hopes sports stars will heed warnings that science is catching up with the technology they use and there is also a high price to pay if they get caught. "I think that I would be naive to think that there may not be a positive test in Beijing but I would hope it would not be a British athlete," he said. "I think that athletes are aware that if they get caught at the finish line they will be named in the press and it will probably be the end of their careers. We cannot guarantee that no one is going to take a short cut but what we can guarantee is that for anyone who does cheat and gets caught there will be serious consequences."

Cowan and Parkinson were speaking at the centre where more than 7,500 samples from UK sports stars are tested annually. This year that figure includes about 1,500 tests covering every British athlete heading to the Olympics and Paralympics. It is one of only 33 WADA-accredited laboratories which can carry out drug testing in sport. Cowan said he was confident that new developments could make the UK, as it prepared for the London 2012 Games, a no-go zone for drug cheats. London's approach to doping will be keenly watched once the Olympic Flame is handed over in Beijing on 24 August.

A "no-compromise approach to doping" in the current atmosphere where the political will is strong to make a difference is needed, says Cowan.

Calls have been made to Government for £8m to set up a National Anti-Doping Organisation (Nado). Preferably, it would need to be up and running by 2011, for testing ahead of the 2012 Games, and its focus would be drug trafficking and supply, prosecuting athletes and getting quality information. Cowan predicted that gene therapy, a new and sophisticated way of cheating, would not be ready by the 2012 Games.