Cleaners and security staff have been recruited by Olympic officials to snoop on athletes as part of the fight against competitors using performance enhancing drugs.
Any of the 10,000 athletes can be subject to spot testing at any time during the Games. But organisers have told staff inside the athletes’ village to report potentially suspicious items that might suggest drug use as part of a new intelligence led approach to testing.
The Independent understands that staff have been told to keep an eye out on suspicious non-prescription medicines, blister packs of tablets and any intravenous equipment that might point towards doping.
Jonathan Harris, LOCOG’s chief anti-doping officer, today told reporters that the team in charge of uncovering drug use were not just reliant on random spot checks to catch cheats.
“We have made other LOCOG functions – security, cleaning, events services, others – very aware of the issues of doping,” he said. “So if they should come across practices, paraphernalia, whatever it may be, then they would bring it to our attention and we would investigate it this and treat it as intelligence.”
Athletes at London 2012 already have to go through the most stringent anti-doping checks in the history of the Olympics. At the Sydney Games 12 years ago just 2,300 random tests were carried out. By Beijing 2008 that figure rose to 4,470. During this summer’s Olympics a team of international scientists will carry out more than 6,000 urine and blood tests throughout the duration of the Games.
Anti-doping measures have already caught out a number of athletes. Since the games began two competitors have tested positive whilst a third admitted taking banned substances and was sent home.
Arne Lungqvist, the head of the International Olympic Committee’s anti-doping program, said this was the first Olympics where his team could use a broad “intelligence network” to “step up the fight” against cheats.
Officials on the anti-doping task force meet each day and decide which athletes to target for spot checks. Data comes in from tips, the police, border agencies and national sporting bodies.
“Intelligence means that we are obtaining information about what may be going on in the intelligence world in terms of transport and transfer of substances, how they are coming in and out of the country,” he said. “We do not simply do random testing to that extent as we used to do before. We do it much more on solid information that could be of importance for finding the cheats.”
An anti-doping phone line, run by Crimestoppers, has also been set up encouraging athletes to report any suspicious activity.
The most common form of drugs used by athletes to steal a march on their rivals are steroids that help build muscle development and substances which increase the amount of oxygen the blood can carry. Diuretics, which can be taken to mask other substances during testing, are also banned. Technology has progressed significantly over the years with scientists now able to find more than 200 substances within 24 hours. But as the recent positive samples show there are still those willing to take the risk in order to get a competitive edge.