Record doping tests at the Universiade
SHENZHEN,August 18,2011 -Every morning without fail, a plane laden with vials of fresh urine takes off in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and lands just under three hours later in Beijing.
The fluids, which have been provided by athletes at the Universiade, are then transported to a high-tech laboratory in China's capital city at which point roughly 30 experts in white coats start their working day.
That working day entails testing each sample in an attempt to uncover substances that feature on the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) prohibited list.
The Summer Universiade might be a sporting competition for university students, but just because not all of them are paid professionals doesn't mean they can get away with doping offences any more than an Olympian could.
During the Universiade, close to 700 drug tests – more than ever before in the event's history - will be carried out by the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) at the sporting venues around Shenzhen.
The laboratory in Beijing – the same one used during the 2008 Olympics– is the only place in China that can then screen the urine samples submitted for banned substances.
Just under a week after the Universiade began, Jian Zhao – the deputy director of CHINADA – feels, despite the logistical issue of flying the samples north to Beijing every morning, like everything is going exactly to plan.
"The number of tests we will carry out during the Universiade has increased since the previous games (in Serbia)," Zhao told AIPSmedia.
"We will do more than 600 tests, maybe 700 during this particular Games.
"We also have 100 doping control offices at the Universiade and 30 experts working in a laboratory in Beijing."
Any adverse findings discovered by the laboratory in Beijing are to be presented to officials from the International University Sports Federation (FISU), who will then determine the next course of action.
Zhao won't say whether any athletes have returned positive samples at this point in time. But it's not because he doesn't want to speak; he simply doesn't know.
CHINADA is responsible for carrying out the drug-testing at the Universiade, he said, but any positive tests would then become the responsibility of FISU.
"Every day, all the samples are transported to the laboratory and a report should then be handed back to FISU within 24 hours," Zhao said.
"If they find some positive cases, a report should be back with FISU within 48 hours."
While gold medallists are automatically tested, Zhao said it was up to officials at the various sporting venues to determine who else would be subject to a random test.
One alleged concern for athletes taking drug tests in China is the chance their sample could return trace amounts of the banned substanceclenbuterol, which is understood to burn fat and build muscle.
The anabolic agent has been linked with the eating of meat in China after an anti-doping laboratory in Cologne found earlier in the year that 22 out of 28 tourists who had spent time in the giant Asian country had tested positive for the substance.
Clenbuterol is also the same substance that three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador tested positive for last year.
But the risk of an athlete at the Universiade eating contaminated meat, Zhao said, was extremely unlikely, although he cautioned athletes to stick to the food on offer at their village.
"As I understand it, this kind of substance is not just in China; it is worldwide," he said.
"But it's also important for the athletes to eat in the village. The organising committee has gone to great efforts to ensure the food there is clean.
"The food in the village is very, very strict."