WASHINGTON (Gray DC) Doping is taking center stage at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but how are scientists and lawmakers trying to tackle the problem at home?
The controversy started with a scathing report outlining a state-sanctioned doping system in Russia earlier this summer. Now, Olympians are on edge, publicly expressing their disdain for cheats.
More than 10,000 athletes are competing at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. Yet, fewer than three percent of them will receive one of the 306 medals up for grabs. The desire to win has spurred athletes to find ways to gain a competitive edge.
“There's a lot of different ways that doping can enhance performance," said Dr. William Clarke, a professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University.
Clarke says cheating among athletes has become more sophisticated and he has to adapt in his testing.
“A lot of it has to do with knowing what you are looking for, so you have to have some advanced intelligence," Clarke explained. "People are constantly modifying the chemical structures of these drugs to fool the system.”
Dr. Clarke recommends those testing Olympians use a method called the athlete biological passport.
"They are measuring both blood and urine," he explained. "They are following these athletes over time and looking at patterns in their biology. By looking at those patterns, they can determine whether there was a change.”
"The Olympics is all about competition, clean competition. We want to make sure there's no cheating going on there," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Thune sent a letter to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), questioning why the group took so long to respond to allegations of doping among Russian athletes.
"This is an agency since 2003 has received 25 million dollars of taxpayer money," Thune said. "So, the taxpayers have a vested interest in finding out whether or not this agency is actually doing its job."
The agency responded in a 5-page letter. In response to questions regarding the Russian case, it said "there was no clear authority vested in us to undertake investigations."
"If they are not getting the job done, then that means that the whole process could be tainted," Thune said.
Doping is already impacting the Rio games. Several athletes this week tested positive for banned substances, including a Chinese swimmer on Friday.