Sochi Olympic Drug Testing Off to a Shaky Start

Test tubes

The Sochi Olympic Games are set to start in just a few weeks, and already they have been under scrutiny for drug testing . . . but not in the way you’d think. It’s not the athletes who are in trouble for using performance enhancing drugs or showing positive tests, it’s the Russian drug testing lab that is being reprimanded! What’s the story, and how will it affect the games?

The Russian laboratory, located in Moscow, is the only facility in Russia that is a fully accredited testing center, and it was planning to open a satellite facility in Sochi in order to perform drug testing during the Olympic Games, set to start on February 7. However, in November of 2013, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) threatened to suspend the lab’s accreditation for six months unless they agreed to comply with WADA’s recommendations for improvement. The possible suspension puts a glitch in the already monumental task of drug testing at this Olympics, said to be the most drug-tested Olympics in history. The lab was set to perform more than 2,400 tests during the two week Games.

According to the WADA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the lab facility, which opened in 2013 and had already performed tests for the world track and field championships August, was facing suspension over false-positives found during a routine evaluation. The WADA urged the IOC to take action against the facility, as the IOC is the official ruling medical authority over the Games. An initial deadline of December 1, 2013 was set for the lab to report improvements, and a second deadline of April 1, 2014 was announced as a time frame for the lab to put in place a quality management program.

With the IOC president, Thomas Bach, announcing publicly that testing at this Olympic Games would be increased 57% over the amount of tests performed in the previous Winter Games in Vancouver, it seems that any laboratory responsible for testing athlete samples over the course of the Games has a tall order to fulfill. However, with news that the one lab facility capable of performing these tests is not up to par, what does this say about the validity and reliability of the Sochi Games’ samples? Hopefully the laboratory has put in place some heavy duty improvements since the proposed suspension was announced and is as ready to test samples as the athletes are to perform feats of daring and athletic prowess!

 

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