Should Olympic Drug Testing be more strict?

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Offline CliffordK

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Should Olympic Drug Testing be more strict?
« on: 02/08/2012 06:05:33 »
As far as I can tell, the current drug tests are only able to detect the presence of many performance enhancing drugs for a few weeks, although it is never clear which drugs are completely out of the system within a few months, and which have residual traces.

It would seem like one could divide the drugs into several catagories. 

"Race Day" enhancements (adrenaline, speed, etc).
"Mid Term" enhancements (erythropoietin (EPO), etc)
"Long Term" enhancements (anabolic steroids).
"Masking Agents" diuretics (also for weigh-ins for sports like wrestling). 

Are we doing enough to test (and thus protect) the athletes?

The current battery of tests are based on blood and urine (and perhaps saliva). 

Many steroids would be undetectable if the usage was stopped sufficiently early.  For example, a weight lifter could use anabolic steroids to build muscle, then stop using them a few months before the Olympics.  Then one would just have to maintain the muscle mass, and one would have a good chance of them being cleared from the system (presumably with some having a shorter detectable lifespan than others).  The performance boost would still be substantial.

Hair tests would extend the detectable time-frame significantly for the drugs including steroids.  But, it would be dependent on finding sufficiently long hair.  And, obviously many competitors would learn the benefits of having extremely short hair.  Some swimmers, of course, already shave.  One could have minimum hair length requirements, but it would be difficult to enforce. 

Fingernail and toenail tests would require sanding the tops of the nails to get a long reference period, up to a year.  But, there is a limit to how short most people would be able to clip the nails....  unless one wants to yank all 10 fingernails and 10 toenails.  Which would certainly raise suspicion.  One could do both hair and nail tests, or perhaps do the nail test if there is insufficient hair available.

I'm not seeing whether a fat biopsy would also help with detection, and might be simpler than a blood test.

Anyway, I'm surprised that there isn't greater effort to search for longer records of anabolic steroid usage.  Hair and nail tests are used for industry drug testing, but not athletic drug testing.

I would implement a team drug policy.
Detect one individual on a country's team, and I would deduct time & points from every individual from the country.  And, I would deduct enough points that it would likely knock a medallist out of the top 3 spots.
Detect two individuals on a country's team, and send the whole country back home, and strip all medals and records.
Doing so should hopefully instill a zero tolerance for drug use on a national level.

I would, however, not treat all drugs equally.  Uppers, downers, narcotics, etc should not be found in the blood or urine as per the regulations.  I would record, but not disqualify individuals for short acting drugs that showed up in the hair or nails.  I could care less if an athlete smoked some weed at a party 6 months ago.  Anabolic steroids, of course, should not be found in any sample.  I would be most concerned with EPO in short term and intermediate samples.