By Barry Janoff
February 28, 2012: Athletes who travel to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics should be prepared to produce much more than their passports. And athletes from within the U.K. should be equally prepared.
In what has been called the largest such effort in the history of the Olympics – and with the warning, “We’ll catch you!” – the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games has unveiled a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited anti-doping laboratory, which will operate 24/7 during the London 2012 Games.
During the course of the Summer Games, the lab anticipates analyzing more than 6,250 samples – up to 400 a day – which will encompass about 50% of all athletes, including every athlete who wins a medal in London.
LOCOG did not give an estimate regarding the cost of the anti-doping program.
LOCOG anticipates that some 17,000 athletes from 200 nations will participate in the Summer Games from July 27-Aug. 12. The laboratory service provider is GlaxoSmithKline and the laboratory operator is King’s College London.
More than 1,000 LOCOG staff members will work within the anti-doping process, and a team of more than 150 anti-doping scientists will carry out the testing at the laboratory, led independently by Prof. David Cowan from the Drug Control Centre at King’s College London.
According to LOCOG, the shortest test turnaround time will be 24 hours, although some would take longer. The facility itself is 4,400 square meters in size, equivalent to seven tennis courts.
“We are doing all we can to ensure that there is no place to hide for drug cheats at London 2012. We'll catch you." — Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport & Olympics
“We are doing all we can to ensure that there is no place to hide for drug cheats at London 2012,” Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, said in a statement. “Our message to any athlete thinking about doping is simple – we’ll catch you.”
According to Paul Deighton, London 2012 CEO, “[This] is an important milestone in the countdown to the Games . . . We have been able to create a facility to successfully and efficiently process 6,250 tests during the Games which has never been done before. As we unveil the anti-doping lab we recognize the importance of a robust testing system and continue to show that London is ready to stage a successful Games.”
LOCOG is serious about drug prevention. The overseeing body previously unveiled the “Win Clean: Say No To Doping” campaign, a partnership among the LOCOG, WADA and the Department of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport. It is managed by UK Anti-Doping. The multi-media effort comes with such messages as “All heart, all soul, all clear,” “When the work is all years the glory is all yours” and “It’s what you get out of your body not what you put in it.”
“All anti-doping programs need to be supported by strong awareness campaigns, and ‘Win Clean: Say No To Doping’ will let athletes and their entourages know in no uncertain terms that doping will not be tolerated at London 2012,” WADA director general David Howman said in a statement.
“It also sends out a very strong message to the next generation of athletes, and the millions of sports fans across the world, that doping is wrong," said Howman. "It is cheating, unethical and a serious health risk.”