First-Ever Electronic Medical Records and Advanced Imaging Technology Being Brought to 2012 London Olympics

For the first time in Olympic history, advanced imaging technology will be used to help detect athletes’ use of performance-enhancing drugs.  GE Healthcare Life Sciences’ biomolecular imager will lend a big hand in helping to test athletes for recombinant erythropoietin (EPO), a performance-enhancing drug used to boost the number of red blood cells, which enables improved oxygen flow and allows athletes to raise their workout intensity and endurance.  The GE provided equipment, the ImageQuant LAS4000, uses technology that offers extremely detailed information to accurately identify EPO doping.  We first saw the popularity of this drug grow among Tour de France cyclists.

Many other tests will be performed, in addition to the EPO test, in an attempt to create the most advanced drug testing laboratory in the history of the Olympics.  GlaxoSmithKline will be the official lab services provider for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games.  Test results will be analyzed at King’s College London, within an independently operated World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory.  The average number of samples analyzed throughout the year at King’s College is approximately 7,000, but during the Olympic Games, it is expected that 5,000 samples will be analyzed in only 17 days.

The history of drug testing in the Olympics dates back to the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.  Many notable athletes have had world records and Olympic medals rescinded due to testing positively for performance-enhancing drugs in post-race drug testing, others have had to resign from their Olympic team just weeks before competing on the world stage due to failed drug tests, and still others have received lifetime bans from the games.  With the rapid advancement of technology within medical imaging and testing, we are likely to see a closer eye on the issue of doping in the Olympics.  While we can begin to feel reassurance from advanced testing such as that provided by GE’s ImageQuant, some of us may be watching this year’s Olympic Games with a skeptical eye about what has gone on before…

©2012 Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

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