09:19am Saturday 28 March 2020

Anti-doping expert warns cheating athletes

istockathleteimageeditGlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and King’s College London have formed a ground-breaking partnership to deliver the anti-doping testing during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, at a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited satellite laboratory in Harlow.

The laboratory will carry out around 6,000 urine and blood tests during the Olympic games, and a further 1,400 during the Paralympics, more than any previous Games.

Speaking at the British Science Festival, Professor Cowan talked about the science behind anti-doping, and the new tests that are in development to catch cheating athletes. In particular, an improved test to detect Human Growth Hormone and a new way of detecting autologous blood doping.

Autologous blood doping is when an athlete stores and transfuses their own blood back into the body. It increases the number of red blood cells and gives a boost to an athlete’s endurance by allowing them to carry more oxygen to the muscles.

The test currently in development will be based on changes present in RNA – a single strand version of DNA that is found in the body. Professor Cowan said: ‘We’ve been looking at the different RNA that is present and been able to identify those that are clearly changed in stored blood.’

It is hoped that the test will be ready in time for next year’s Games.

‘This will be the riskiest Olympic Games yet for athletes who decide to cheat. The message is clear; if you cheat, we will catch you,’ he concluded.

GSK and WADA have also recently announced that they will share information on new drugs in development that they think could be misused by athletes in the future, so appropriate tests can be developed as soon as possible to detect their misuse.

At the Festival, Professor Cowan spoke alongside Professor Ron Maughan from Loughborough University, Pauline Williams, an R&D expert from GSK and Nicola Newman, Director of Communications and Education at UK Anti-Doping.

Also at the British Science Festival this week

Dr Marco Catani, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s, will be presenting a session at the Festival as part of the ‘How the Brain Recovers’ event, on 15 September.

Dr Catani will be showing how modern neuroimaging methods are being used to reveal how the brain prevents mental illness and recovers from neurological disorders. These methods also show how the human brain is unique compared to other species, and why it is so vulnerable to mental illness.

For further information, please contact Emma Reynolds, Press Officer at King’s College London, on 0207 848 4334 or email [email protected]

Notes to editors:

The British Science Festival is being held at the University of Bradford from the 10 to 15 September, and is one of Europe’s largest celebrations of science, engineering and technology with over 250 events taking place.

For more information on King’s, see our ‘King’s in Brief’ page.

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