Drugs in sport: can science stop the cheats? | The Economist

Drugs in sport: can science stop the cheats? | The Economist

In breaking news now UCI, cycling’s governing body, ban Armstrong for life Marion Jones would store steroids in the refrigerator I have no one to blame but myself Over the years scientific progress has made it easier… …and faster to detect athletes who dope But it’s also helped make it easier to dope Few are caught So what’s the real story behind doping in sport? Just explain to me what… …anti-doping agencies are up against So they have an impossible task, essentially… …which is looking for a huge list of substances… …and then looking for the invisible The classic ways of doping are using anabolic steroids That’s really what it started with But it’s not the most refined way of doping On top of that you have human growth hormones are still being used… …and it’s gotten a lot more sophisticated now Blood doping—we were talking about it Blood doping—we were talking about it
So EPO, which is a drug that thickens your blood and so… So EPO, which is a drug that thickens your blood and so… …increases the number of red blood cells in your system… …and that oxygenates your muscles Everyday, essentially, there’s a new set of drugs that are being designed… …or a new set of combinations and cocktails that are being designed Science has always played catch-up to the ways… …athletes and coaches avoid detection of drugs in sport For most of the history of anti-doping… …the focus was on trying to identify particular chemicals… …in urine We went to talk to James Tozer… …who writes about on sport here at The Economist… …to find out how the science has moved on About ten years ago… …they introduced something called the ‘‘athlete biological passport”… …and the aim there is not to find specific substances… …but rather to look for unusual changes… …in the composition of an athletes’ blood For as long as the Olympics have existed… …athletes have cheated But it’s only since the International Olympic Committee… …started testing for doping in 1968… …that the cheaters have been officially caught The game changed in 2004… …with the introduction of a bio-bank… …allowing the storage and re-testing of athletes’ samples… …over an eight-year period Then in 2009 came biological passports Since then more than 200 athletes have been caught doping But that’s not the full picture The passports were sort of seen as this silver bullet… …you know this magic solution And it hasn’t delivered that You’re still getting you know, maybe 1-2% of tests are positive And there are lots of athletes who have continued to compete… …during the era of the passports and haven’t been caught In an anonymous survey… …at the 2011 World Athletics Championships… …an astonishing 44% of athletes admitted to doping… …within the last year But typically only 1-2% of samples test positive And most doping has in fact been detected… …years after it happened And had it not been for the admissions of two Russian whistleblowers… …and other intelligence… …many of those cases could still be unknown Ali Jawad is a British Paralympian… …and former world-champion weightlifter I’m an athlete first and foremost… …and athletes deserve to have clean sport, fair play… …and they deserve to be protected As an outspoken critic of doping in sports… …we wanted to hear Ali’s take on how big the gap might be… …between doping and its detection Right now the system’s still not optimal for athletes WADA catch maybe 1 or 2%, right? I honestly, honestly think… …that we’re looking at maybe 30-40% That’s why I think they’re so backwards in the way they… …test out data as well But that’s why I keep pushing about… …if you’re only catching 1 or 2%… …then how many clean athletes are missing out on these medals? So why have biological passports not lived up to their promise… …as the way to stamp out doping? And what’s the alternative? There’s a scientist in the south of England… …who seems to have an answer So we headed to Brighton to meet him The athlete-biological-passport system is a very clever concept Its weakness at the moment is that it’s based on a handful of biomarkers… …compounds within the body that reflect… …the fact that there’s been a change… …in one’s red blood cells, for example But it’s very, very clear that a large number are evading detection… …because the markers can also be easily manipulated Yannis Pitsiladis is on the Medical and Scientific Commission of the IOC… …the International Olympic Committee… He’s spent more than a decade honing a new method to… …spot blood doping It’s an approach that might eventually be used to test… …and help stamp out, doping of any kind Will they have stored it as whole blood? – Whole blood But how much do they have? So what we are pioneering here in this laboratory… …is trying to utilise newer technologies like these gene-chip technologies… …where we can look at every single gene… …that’s switched on and off in the human body… …to see whether we can use this approach to the detection of drugs in sport Yannis plans to add thousands of biomarkers… …through genetic sequencing There are around 21,000 genes in the body Several hundred switch on when an athlete takes a blood-thickening drug… …or has a blood transfusion And this changes the athlete’s genetic signature By analysing these changes, which can be detected weeks… …possibly even months later… …Yannis can spot blood doping, the method used and… …even roughly when it took place But the final stage of Yannis’s research could be the most challenging It’ll be labour-intensive, and time-consuming… …require access to a DNA sequencer and a supercomputer… …and it will cost an estimated £4m ($5.2m) I must acknowledge that I am one of the most-funded scientists… …in anti-doping… …and I’m extremely frustrated So far Yannis has secured over half a million pounds from sponsors… …and WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency And a Chinese company has agreed to lend him a sequencer Let’s demonstrate, even in a small way, that we can detect… …one athlete scientifically I’m confident that this is the way forward Yannis’s struggle to secure funding is typical of the wider challenge… …facing anti-doping researchers It’s very clear to me that WADA needs more money And the question is, where is that money going to come from? What really struck us when we talked to Yannis wasn’t just the science… …it was this funding gap Organisations that say that they want to rid sport of doping… …haven’t always put their money where their mouth is So we’ve made another film to find out why… …and to untangle the politics around… …the world’s foremost anti-doping agency We need to understand that WADA… …as an institution, is weak There was resistance from the Olympic movement… …where there was a desire to have more control It’s basically a naked legislator It produces rules that it has absolutely no power… …and capacity… …to enforce

18 thoughts on “Drugs in sport: can science stop the cheats? | The Economist”

  1. The bad news: We are all sinners with a fallen nature. No sin is greater or worse than any other, sin is sin. God is a Holy God and he cannot allow not even 1 sin into heaven.

    “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”

    The good news, If Jesus could ask his Father to forgive those who tortured, mocked, blasphemed and crucified him what makes you think he won't forgive you!?

    The Gospel:

    Jesus paid for our sins so that we might be saved, nothing we can do on this earth can ever save us.

    Ephesians 2:8-9“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

    How to be saved?

    As a repentant sinner Look into your heart and confess: Dear God I am a wretched sinner, as I repent I put my faith that Jesus is God and that he died buried and resurrected so that his blood can wash away my sins I put my faith in that alone to save me not my good works in Jesus name I pray Amen.

    Romans 10:9-10 "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

  2. We should have a version of sports where athletes are allowed to take a sh*tload of doping drugs.

    Like f**k bro, let's actually see how high a human being can really jump.

  3. Umm, what about genetic alteration and gene therapy, which can be done as an adult.

    And once the technology is matured, genetic engineering to create better athletes from conception?
    There are already selective breeding programs in China where certain athletes are "encouraged" to breed with each other.

  4. Richard Ralph Roehl

    Cheats? What about transgender dudes, pretending to be biological women in women's $ports? These transgender guys are winning ALL women's $porting events, and they're breaking ALL previous records.

  5. Work around is: declare a sex change from male to female. I win!
    No drugs. Except for my hormones. Work on my head voice, done.
    Seems the cheating issue can’t be solved.

  6. Who needs drugs all a man needs to do is put on a dress and tell everyone that he is a (s)he…mental illness or not.

    Eventually women will get sick of this bullshit or the quiet majority will speak out or up. A few sportswomen have already…just wait for the worms are beginning to reveal themselves so f*** 'hormones'…oops…drugs.

    Physiologically men and women differ in over 1000 ways.

  7. It’s safe to assume that at the highest levels of competition everyone is engaged in or have engaged in doping. Yes even your favorite and most well known athletes. It’s just a matter of not getting caught. There is too much incentive to do whatever it takes to get an edge and almost none to being honest. That’s just reality.

  8. Why does anyone care so much about sports? What lasting benefits do they have on the world? All the money spent on this could go toward finding a cure for cancer or helping impoverished communities. I just don't get it…

  9. Science is creating the cheats; humans are the ones deciding to cheat. Science is not emotionally confined to good or evil; humans are the ones deciding on what is good or bad. Blame the humans not the Science.

  10. Let me throw this at you, Economist editors: Men who transition to women in the field of athletics have an unfair advantage if they grew into manhood before their operation. They have stronger, denser, bones, muscles and sinews and a greater heart and lung capacity. is this not a form of cheating? Women who have trained their entire lives who were the champions in their respective sports are having their titles taken and records smashed by transwomen who grew up as men. These former males might not have been been good enough to make it in their sports as elite athletes but in switching genders, they completely dominate. Is it ethical to allow this? Should their be a separate competition completely?

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