2012 Olympics Anti-Doping Laboratory, United Kingdom
The 2012 London Olympics will be the first Olympic event to have an anti-doping laboratory sponsored by a pharmaceutical company. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) proposed to sponsor the anti-doping programme for the 2012 Olympic Games.
The proposal was accepted by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) in 2009.
GSK has made the donation as part of its £20m contribution to the Games. The sponsorship was signed under a Tier Three deal.
The company subsequently built an anti-doping laboratory at one of its R&D sites near Harlow in Essex, UK, about 22 miles from the Olympic Stadium. Spread over 4,400m² (47,361ft²), the laboratory is as big as seven tennis courts.
The 2012 London Olympics anti-doping programme
The 2012 London Olympics anti-doping programme is aimed at eliminating doping practices by athletes participating in the Games.
GSK was announced to be the official laboratory services provider for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics in November 2009. The contractual scope includes the supply of equipment and provision of services for anti-dope testing for the Games.
Partners in the project include GSK and King's College
GSK formed an alliance with King's College London in November 2009 in order to provide the test equipment and services.
The pharmaceutical company will supply the required equipment and facilities, while King's College London will operate the satellite laboratory in co-ordination with the Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee.
The facility is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). It will operate on a 24x7 basis. It will analyse about 6,250 test samples during the Games, which is the highest amount ever so far at an Olympic and Paralympics event. The 2012 London Olympics is expected to attract more than 10,500 athletes worldwide.
GSK has also signed an agreement with the WADA in July 2011 to share the company's confidential research information about medicines in early stages of development that could be potentially abused by athletes.
This will help to devise more sensitive tests to detect doping in future sports events. It will also enable the discovery of a higher number of substances that could be potentially abused by athletes.
Details of the Essex-based facility
The laboratory was unveiled in January 2012 by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).
The facility will recruit more than 150 scientists to carry out the testing. It will also employ more than 1,000 LOCOG staff, mostly volunteers, for the testing process.
The laboratory is equipped with the most modern technology ever used for dope testing in the history of the Olympics. It uses a barcode identification system for the blood and urine samples collected from the participants and medal winners.
The bar code system avoids contamination and erroneous results. The system is the first-of-its-kind at an Olympics event. The facility has separate areas for sample logging, sample splitting, sample preparation, blood testing and analysis.
State-of-the-art dope testing processes used at the laboratory
The anti-doping test facilities at the state-of-the-art laboratory can test about 200 illicit compounds. It also conducts combined tests for banned products.
The laboratory will provide results for most of the tests within 24 hours to 48 hours. For a few tests, such as on endurance boosting drug erythropoietin, longer time will be required (up to 72 hours) to get the results. The turnaround time of a negative result will be 24 hours.
The testing team will be headed by Professor David Cowan, director of drug control centre at King's College London, who will work in association with 12 anti-doping expert analysts from the drug control centre.
Each set of samples will be dispatched on an hourly basis to the GSK laboratory by a secured courier service. Each sample will be assigned with a unique number and bar code.
The urine samples will be split in two - A and B. Part of sample A will be prepared for testing and the rest securely stored. It will be screened for more than 60 prohibitive substances in just one test.
The initial result of a test (sample A) will be available in just 12 hours. In case of a suspected positive, the result will be confirmed within the next 12 hours.
Athletes have the right to get another sample (sample B) tested in presence of their legal representatives. The laboratory, therefore, will be fast, sensitive and effective in testing so the athletes will have bleak chances to challenge the result. It also guarantees the test process.
The test results will be passed to the International Olympics Committee. The B samples are mandated to be stored for eight years for retesting using any new tests and substances that may be discovered, according to the International Olympic Committee protocols.
The anti-doping laboratory is capacitated to test at least half of the athletes participating in the 2012 Olympics. Dope tests will also be conducted on all the medal winners. It will test up to 400 samples every day, including one among every two athletes participating in the Games.