Are existing testing efforts effective in detecting the use of performance enhancing drugs?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Caroline K. Hatton, PhD, former Associate Director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, wrote the following in her 2008 book, The Night Olympic Team:
"Although the media often describes anti-doping efforts as an endless game of cat-and-mouse, a look at previous decades shows tremendous progress. Sports organizations add drugs to their prohibited list far quicker than in the past. Harmonization of sports rules (prohibited drugs, sanctions) across different sports organizations and of lab tests across different labs, as well as the collaboration among world sports and drug-enforcement bodies have vastly improved. Research funding for scientists to invent new tests is slowly increasing. The system is not perfect, but it is capable of changing, mostly for the better."
Are existing testing efforts effective in detecting the use of performance enhancing drugs?
Gary I. Wadler, MD, Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) Prohibited List and Methods Sub-Committee, in a June 26, 2008 New York Times interview titled "Dr. Gary Wadler of the World Anti-Doping Agency Gives His Answers to Your Questions (Part I)," offered the following:
"The detection methods are accurate and reliable. They undergo rigorous validation prior to being introduced... WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] is, of course, keenly interested in the efficiency, as well as the effectiveness, of the global anti-doping system and supports research to help enhance testing efficiency... [WADA] has funded a number of studies in anticipation of the seeming inevitability of gene doping in the years ahead... The I.O.C. [International Olympic Committee] retains ownership of the athlete’s samples (blood and urine) for eight years following the Olympic Games... [D]uring the ensuing eight years, if a technique is developed that would enable the detection of a prohibited substance... the stored specimen could be tested for that specific substance and the athlete would be held accountable."
Richard Pound, BCL, former President of the World Anti-Doping Agency, in a Sep. 29, 2007 China Daily article titled "WADA Chief Hails China's Anti-doping Measures," offered the following:
"I think it's possible that we will be able to use China as an example of an effective fighter of doping in sports... As for drug testing during the Games, you can assume it will be the best... Whether the Games will be clean, I don't know. That depends on the cheats. But if they come and they are filled with drugs, we will find them."
Jacques Rogge, MD, President of the International Olympic Committee, in a July 23, 2008 Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) interview published by DW-World.de and titled "Interview 1st Add: DPA Interview with IOC President Jacques Rogge," stated the following:
"My conclusion... is that testing is effective. We had 12 cases in Sydney with 2,500 tests, we had 26 cases in Athens with 3,500 tests and now we are going to have 4,500 tests. I am not saying I believe in the purity of everyone, unfortunately that is not possible, but I think that the testing is more efficient."
Jane M. Moran, MD, FRCP, Chairperson of the International Skating Union's (ISU) Medical Commission, in an International Doping Tests & Management (IDTM) website section (accessed Dec. 10, 2008) titled "Bulletin # 4 - Skating's Elegant Anti-doping Techniques," stated the following:
"All our medal winners as well as randomly selected athletes provide a second blood sample along with their urine sample. This allows us to compare their blood level with the screening blood test performed before the competition and eliminates the possibility of any acute manipulation such as transfusion in the time between the initial screening test and the competition. [...]
I believe that the extensive blood testing system we have implemented over the past few years has proved effective in deterring and limiting blood manipulation. It is also important that the athletes respect the testing procedure and perceive it as fair and effective. Our athletes are comfortable that everyone is subjected to the same testing procedures."
Jim Caple, Senior Writer at ESPN.com, in a June 28, 2008 ESPN.com article titled "Will We Ever Be Able to Just Enjoy Track Again?," wrote the following:
"One of the reasons track athletes get caught [using banned substances] more frequently is because they are tested more often and more effectively than their counterparts in the major professional sports. In addition to the random and mandatory urine tests they routinely face, athletes are subject to random blood testing..."
Russell Meldrum, MD, Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, and Judy R. Feinberg, PhD, Director of Clinical Research and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, in a Spring 2002 The Sport Journal article titled "Drug Use by College Athletes: Is Random Testing an Effective Deterrent?," offered the following:
"Incidence of anabolic steroid use among college athletes is about 1%, with another 12% considered at-risk in that they would use such drugs under the right circumstances. This study aimed to determine if volunteer drug testing, without fear of penalty, would result in positive identification of drug use... A group of 197 college athletes, all of who denied drug use, voluntarily and anonymously supplied urine samples. Average Testosterone/Epitestosterone ratio was 1.33 ± 0.86, with two cases (1.1%) above the accepted ratio. We conclude that T/E ratio testing is effective in detecting use of performance-enhancing drugs..."
Olivier Rabin, PhD, Science Director of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), in a July 21, 2008 BBC News article titled "Concerns Over Olympic Drug Test," when asked "[Are you] happy that the test is catching all the drug cheats?", stated the following:
"I am reasonably confident, yes... Now, it would be very presumptuous on my part to say that we are absolutely 100% sure we are going to get everyone. But I can assure you that if you were to take recombinant EPO and that would be in your urine - then, yes, we would detect it."
Gary Hall Jr., three-time US Olympic Swimmer and 10-time Olympic medalist, in a Los Angeles Times blog section titled "Sports" (accessed Dec. 3, 2008), wrote the following:
"Antonio Pettigrew [member of the 2000 US men's 1,600-meter relay team] had admitted using performance-enhancing drugs before, during and after the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Pettigrew never failed a drug test... Athletes can fool the anti-doping agency. Pettigrew is another on a very long list that proves that duping the anti-doping folks is easy enough...
Teammates and coaches can put pressure on the dopers in a way that the anti-doping agency never will be able to. What a cheater might be able to conceal from the anti-doping agency, despite its best efforts, will be much more difficult to keep from coaches and teammates. As long as the clean athlete remains silent the cheaters only have to worry about an under-funded, under-effective anti doping agency."
Lee Craig, Instructor of Journalism in the Professional Writing Program at Grant MacEwan College, in an Aug. 27, 2004 University of Alberta Express News article titled "'Almost Impossible' to Catch Cheating Athletes," wrote the following:
"Despite World Anti-Doping Agency head Richard Pound’s confidence in testing methods... [i]n the past, only about one per cent of athletes have tested positive for banned substances, and this number is generally considered only a fraction of those who use performance-enhancing drugs."
Laura L. Finley, PhD, Professor of Sociology in the Department of Women's Studies at Florida Atlantic University, in her 2006 book titled The Sports Industry's War on Athletes, wrote:
"The U.S. Olympic Committee tests some athletes too infrequently and provide athletes too many opportunities to avoid testing. At least 15,000 serious, national-level athletes compete in the United States, yet the World Anti Doping Agency tested only 4,700 athletes between late 2000 and 2002, and most of those only one time... In the end, few athletes get caught and banned, but little else is changed."
Nathan Jendrick, fitness writer, in his 2006 book titled Dunks, Doubles, Doping: How Steroids Are Killing American Athletics, wrote the following:
"Dozens of other doctors, trainers, and athletes have all sent the same message: Only the stupid athletes get caught. As disturbing as it sounds, it's a semi accurate statement... [A]s long as there are banned substances that can help athletes excel, people will attempt to beat the testing procedures. In defense of testing, a record of 24 athletes were caught doping at the Athens Olympics in 2004. But according to some, that was merely a fraction of the athletes who were actually cheating... it is simply a matter of time before good science catches up with bad science. By the same token, new methods of protecting athletes using performance enhancing substances are most certainly being developed even faster."
Rasmus Damsgaard, MD, PhD, Medical and Doping Researcher at Bispebjerg University Hospital, in a July 21, 2008 BBC News article titled "Concerns Over Olympic Drug Test," stated the following:
"From a little work with a lot of blood profiles, I found maybe five positives. I wonder that maybe hundreds, maybe even thousands of EPO [erythropoietin] positive samples are lying around in WADA-accredited labs... WADA is sitting on a mountain of positive EPO. They have these very strict rules, and declare that everything is working fine. But it's not working at all! You can more or less do whatever you like with EPO and you will not be charged."
Annabelle Quince, Co-presenter of Rear Vision for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio National, stated the following in a May 20, 2007 program titled "Drugs in Sport":
"One of the main ways officials enforce the code is by drug testing. The problem for athletes is that no testing regime is infallible. All tests, can and do produce false positives. And with a substance like testosterone which can both occur naturally and as an anabolic steroid, it's even further complicated. Because when testing for testosterone, officials first look at an athlete's T/E ratio, that is the ratio of testosterone in his or her body. If that ratio is higher than 4 over 1, they suspect that an athlete has engaged in doping. The difficulty is that some athletes naturally have elevated testosterone levels."
Tapio Videman, MD, DMSci, Heritage Senior Scholar of Rehabilitation Medicine at University of Alberta, in an Aug. 27, 2004 University of Alberta Express News article titled "'Almost Impossible' to Catch Cheating Athletes," offered the following:
"My understanding is that there is no way to detect in the human body the newer gene-technology products, such as Dynepo [a newer form of EPO]... Why is this not brought up? Most of the athletes know it. Either we change the methods of testing for this substance or give up testing completely... The creativity of athletes and their advisors is amazing when it comes to not getting caught... The athletes have advisors who know how to use these substances and avoid detection. The athletes have supporters who get them the latest drugs before they are even on the market."