Athletes will beat drug tests at Atlanta

July 19, 1996

Athletes at the Olympics will get away with using a range of drugs because tests for detecting them will not stand up in court, research scientists claimed last week.

At a conference called Doping in Sport and Society, experts said that a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) will be a huge thorn in the International Olympic Committee's side.

This hormone stimulates production of the natural anabolic steroid testosterone.

The conference also confirmed that human growth hormone (hGH), which increases muscle bulk, and a synthetic version of the hormone erythropoietin, which stimulates production of red blood cells and increases the body's oxygen-carrying capacity, remain undetectable.

The BBC's Panorama programme, on Tuesday night, claimed that 75 per cent of athletes will be on drugs.

Don Catlin, of the IOC doping sub committee, said that detecting erythropoietin, hGH and hCG abuse is theoretically possible but the available tests cannot be used in Atlanta because their results will not stand up in court. Tests for hGH and hCG should be validated in time for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

The games could also see a rash of false positive tests. The highly sensitive equipment can detect traces of "banned" substances that occur naturally in minute amounts in the human body, find their way into the urine via food, or are produced by bacteria living in the gut.

The conference, part of the International Congress of Clinical Chemistry, was organised by Dr David Cowan of the Drug Control Centre at Kings College London.

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