Friday, August 8, 2008

Doping in Sport: Is it Time to Test the Tests?

Let's start by saying that we abhor doping in sport and that any athlete who uses performance enhancing drugs should be banned from competition for much longer than the standard two year suspension in place today. That said, we at Run Junkie have always wondered about the science behind, and validity of, doping control tests, which seem to be a combination of advanced technology and shoot-from-the-hip desperation to keep up with cheating athletes.

It's tragic to think that honest, clean, and hard-working athletes have their careers ruined by a false positive drug test, and there have been a number of well-reasoned scientific papers recently showing that this may be happening more often than most people understand (previous post). The latest and biggest bombshell to drop, however, was in a commentary by Dr. Michael Barry in the venerable journal Nature called, The Science of Doping. In the commentary, Barry calls into question the validity of the whole anti-doping system, which he argues is based on untested science and lacks necessary standards for the collection, storage, and security of blood and urine samples.

Barry has raised the ire of the World Anti-Doping Agency and other related agencies, but at a time when many sports are on the brink because of doping, it seems to make sense to try to get things right.

Listen to Barry talk about his paper on today's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday.

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