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Why cheats can’t exhale

Sherrylyn A. Toppin

Why cheats can’t exhale

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LONDON – It’s becoming harder to get away with cheating, but if any Olympic athlete does so, they should hold their breath for at least eight years.
This is the caution from Australian John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), during an hour-long Press conference yesterday afternoon at the Main Press Centre.
In pointing out that the London 2012 Olympic Games would be “the most tested games in Olympic history”, Fahey said    71 649 tests had been conducted worldwide in the six-month period leading up to July 19 on Summer Olympic sports, resulting in 107 athletes being sanctioned.
“I hope those figures give you an indication    of the concerted effort    that is being made by the anti-doping community    to prevent doping cheats from reaching [the London Games],” Fahey said.
Overall, 6 250 samples will be tested, including those of the first five finishers in the    medal rounds.
Approximately 400 samples will be tested daily and the turnaround for some results may be as quickly as 24 hours.
One thousand people, including 150 anti-doping scientists, will work in the London lab, which will be open 24 hours a day.
Fahey said WADA did not conduct testing but functioned as a watchdog organization. Through a series of memoranda of understanding there has been more collaboration with countries and sporting organizations.
A WADA observer team of nine individuals, five for the Olympic Games and four for the Paralympics, will be here this summer. Athlete outreach programmes will also be conducted and there are outreach centres in the Olympic Village.
Responding to a question about those athletes who were cheating out of competition, Fahey said some of the sample from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games were recently retested and there have been reports    of positive tests.
“Quite frankly, what that means is that there is a continual improvement scientifically, technologically in the methodology and the detection process.
“If someone thinks they are home free in 15-days’ time from some form of cheating here in London, then they should hold their breath for at least eight years, because the odds are they can be picked up at a later    point in time,” the president said.
Six athletes have also been caught using the Biological Passport which measures and monitors changes in athletes’ blood over time and can be used to test for drugs.
Fahey said while detection methods were improving, they were far from perfect, but hoped that athlete education would be a deterrent.
But the length of time which samples are being stored and not tested was called into question by International Olympic Committee member and former WADA president Dick Pound earlier yesterday. The eight-year statute of limitation will expire on August 29.
Fahey said it made no sense to store samples for that length of time and not retest them.
He pointed out if the tests were done too early, some of the newer equipment might not have been able available, but it was one of the best deterrents that athletes could be caught in the future when they thought they had escaped.