Citius, Altius, Fortius – the Olympic motto of faster, higher, stronger. It inspires athletes to be the best they can be. Unfortunately in the pursuit of excellence some athletes choose to use prohibited performance enhancing substances. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) produces an annual list of prohibited substances. To detect their use samples are collected from athletes both in-and out-of-competition and analysed at accredited laboratories.
To protect clean athletes samples collected from the 2008 Beijing Olympics are being re-analysed prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics. These samples are being re-analysed at the Lausanne Anti-Doping Laboratory using the latest updated techniques. So far this re-analysis of 454 selected samples has resulted in 31 athletes from 6 sports potentially being banned from the Rio Olympics.
The scientists in WADA accredited laboratories may have their own motto as they strive to detect use of these prohibited substances. Smaller, newer, longer seems appropriate.
Smaller – because progress in re-analysis may allow detection of a substance in a smaller volume of urine, or detection of a substance in an even smaller quantity.
Newer – to reflect progress in detection of new substances that may not have been previously detectable or even tested for.
Longer – because new techniques may allow detection of substances for a longer time after the athlete has stopped using them. All of these progressions will have been applied in the re-testing of the Beijing samples.
Under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code, samples can be stored for up to 10 years. This allows for progress in anti-doping science to be applied retrospectively and for those who think they may have got away with cheating to have to think again. That’s good news for all clean competitors.