Olympic doping lab unveiled

The head of the state-of-the-art laboratory that will test athletes for performance-enhancing drugs during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver admits she might not be able to catch all the cheaters.

VANCOUVER — The head of the state-of-the-art laboratory that will test athletes for performance-enhancing drugs during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver admits she might not be able to catch all the cheaters.

Dr. Christiane Ayotte, the director of the newly completed lab at the Richmond Olympic Oval, describes a technology arms race between cheaters and the sporting authorities trying to keep up with the latest doping techniques.

And she notes that if an athlete used drugs during his or her training but stops before coming to Vancouver, the tests might not pick that up, either.

But Ayotte, who took reporters through a tour of the $8.9-million facility on Wednesday, said the lab features the very latest tools to detect steroids, blood-doping agents, hormones or other substances athletes might use to gain an unfair advantage.

“We cannot say pure sport, pure Games,” said Ayotte, whose staff from Canada’s only World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab in Montreal will run the Vancouver operation.

“We sure put in the best energy. I’m 100 per cent confident that nobody can do better than what we are doing now, what we will be doing.”

The Richmond lab, which is an exact replica of Ayotte’s facility in Montreal, will test about 2,400 samples during next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver.

Athletes will be subjected to both random tests and also targeted screening, based on intelligence from anti-doping officials.

Nearly 500 trained volunteers will collect blood and urine samples at the sports venues in Vancouver and Whistler. After that, they’ll be transported to the lab in Richmond, which has several levels of security to prevent tampering, and results should be available within 72 hours.

The lab will test considerably more samples than in previous Winter Olympics — in comparison, 1,200 samples were tested at the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy — and will use newly developed tests and more sensitive technology that hasn’t been available at previous Games.

“It is simply the evolution — the instrumentation, the technology is always changing, getting better,” said Ayotte.

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