Doping has long been the scourge of sport. Some of the most high-profile names have been found out or instigated in unprofessional outlawed methods of getting ahead, often decimating the sport they were once seen to promote - tennis superstar Maria Sharapova in 2016, baseball great Barry Bonds, boxer Roy Jones Jr - seven years of Tour de France history had to be virtually erased due to the efficiency of Lance Armstrong’s doping programme.
Perhaps the most significant controversy came from the reveal of the systematic usage by the athletics federation in Russia as shown in the Netflix documentary ‘Icarus.’
There may, however, be an end in sight with the unveiling of dramatic new measures to prevent such abuse at the fifth World Conference on Doping in Sport, currently taking place in Katowice, Poland.
Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee, who has already been calling for tougher sanctions on athletes’ entourages, has now helped to present the groundbreaking method of ‘gene testing’ in order to detect alien substances in the blood, even months after being utilized.
Professor Yannis Pitsiladis of the University of Brighton, a specialist in Sport and Exercise Science, is the man Pitsiladis has previously worked with on the Sub2 project that attempted to make a person break the two-hour barrier for a marathon, something that was recently achieved by Eliud Kipchoge.
Pitsiladis has been developing the technique of gene testing, something which could realistically revolutionise the sport, since 2006.
According to the Irish Times, “Pitsiladis and his team try to identify which genes are “turned on” when blood has been manipulated by either the use of a banned substance such as EPO, which boosts the production of red blood cells or a transfusion.” The results could be significant in wiping the illegal process out of sport.
“With research on genetic sequencing progressing well, this new approach could be a groundbreaking method to detect blood doping, weeks or even months after it took place,” Bach told the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Katowice, Poland (via The Guardian).
“If approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency, such gene testing could be used at the Tokyo Olympics. These new methods will again strengthen deterrence. We want the cheats to never feel safe, anytime or anywhere.”
There are certain concerns about the testing’s current lack of validation, and the tests may not come into use in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo but fundamentally we could be about the witness the death of doping.