Australian scientists racing to the London Olympics

Friday, 13 July, 2012

It’s not just world-class athletes who will be representing Australia at the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London. A team of world-class scientists from the National Measurement Institute will be part of the competition to outwit any drug cheats at the Games.

Four scientists from the NMI’s Sports Drug Testing Laboratory in Sydney set off on July 16 to join over 150 scientists from around the world who will be conducting the drug testing program for the London Olympic Games. Lance Brooker, Jill Simpson, Janelle Grainger and Catrin Goebel were invited to work with King’s College London in the provision of sports drug testing services for the London Olympics. Each member of the team will be working in the field of their expertise: Lance Brooker - isotope ratio mass spectrometry, Jill Simpson - erythropoietin, Janelle Grainger - human growth hormone and Catrin Goebel - liquid chromatography high resolution mass spectrometry.

For the first time in Olympics history, a private sponsor - pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) - will be aiding the effort, providing the facilities for the scientists to carry out their work. The $30 million state-of-the-art laboratory in Harlow, Essex, is a short distance from the Olympic Park in east London and is fully accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Professor David Cowan from the Drug Control Centre at King’s College London will lead what London 2012 organisers claim will be “the most sophisticated anti-doping operation in the history of the Games”.

More than 6250 samples of blood and urine will be tested during both the Olympics and Paralympics (four years ago in Beijing that figure was around 4500). The laboratory will be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the duration of the games and negative results for more than 240 prohibited substances are expected to be confirmed within 24 hours of collection.

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