July 26 - The doping police have unsheathed a new weapon in the battle against drug cheats at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The target is human growth hormone (HgH), a substance believed to have been widely abused by athletes over many years, partly because of the lack of a reliable test, except where a sample happened to be taken within hours of the drug being ingested.
Now this post-ingestion time window looks to have been extended to a number of weeks – the authorities are reluctant to disclose how many – thanks to the addition of a second HgH test.
David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), has revealed that the test was "in place" and at the disposal of the London 2012 anti-doping laboratory in Harlow.
"The other test for HgH will be used as well," Howman explained.
"They are complementary, not separate."
The newly approved test will be familiar to students of this field, as it has been subject to review for several years.
Developed by Professor Peter Sonksen, the new test is understood to be capable of distinguishing between externally-administered HgH and hormone produced naturally by the athlete's body.
Howman described the introduction of the new test, which was based on "good science" notwithstanding the long passage of time prior to approval, as a "very significant step".
WADA President John Fahey disclosed at the same media event that as many as six sports would be deploying the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) at London 2012.
The six are understood to be athletics, swimming, cycling, rowing, triathlon and modern pentathlon.
The ABP is based on the idea that if you monitor certain biological variables in an athlete over time, unusual variations in those measurements might betray a change in behaviour, such as recourse to doping.
Not all experts are convinced by the ABP's effectiveness, however.
One Zurich-based professor, Carsten Lundby, recently told insidethegames that the ABP's ability to reveal doping with erythropoietin (EPO) was "virtually zero".
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