Olympics ‘Riskiest Ever’ for Drug Cheats. The SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport is warning athletes departing for the 2012 London Olympics to stay clean or get caught, as the games will be the ‘riskiest’ ever for drug cheats.

This is according to SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport CEO, Khalid Galant, who says that while the South African public can be assured that close to 100% of Team SA (both Olympic and Paralympic athletes) who will be donning the Team SA outfit for the opening ceremony in London, have been tested multiple times during the past six months, there is a danger of some athletes succumbing to the temptation to take banned substances prior to the event to enhance their performance.

He says that the London Olympics taking place from 27th July to 12th August, will see an unprecedented number of doping control tests being performed and that athletes can safely assume that all medal winners will be tested and they should also expect to avail themselves for blood testing.

“Huge advances have been made in what can now be detected and new tests for growth hormone, gene doping and possibly autologous blood doping (athlete’s own blood is extracted, stored, then reintroduced at a later date) are all on the testing cards at this year’s Olympics,” warns Galant.

Doping Control Officers will carry out around 6,000 blood and urine drug tests, and there will be more use of ‘targeted testing’ based on intelligence gathered before the games.

According to Galant, in acknowledgement of the quality and standards of drug testing in sport in South Africa, two SAIDS doping control officers have been invited to be part of the corps of drug testing officials at the Games. “SAIDS General Manager, Fahmy Galant will be part of the WADA team of independent observers, which monitors all drug testing activities during the Olympics to ensure international standards are adhered to,” he says.

“We have had face-to-face education sessions with the athletes to ensure that they know what to expect during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They have received information on their anti-doping responsibilities, anti-doping procedures and list of prohibited substances.”

“The dangers of sports supplements have also been highlighted as we have experienced a spate of positive drug tests among athletes allegedly due to sports supplements. Many of the labels on sports supplements fail to warn athletes that the products contains substances that are banned in sport such as steroids and stimulants.”

Galant stresses that ignorance is never an excuse and that the strict World Anti-Doping Code regulation dictates that the athlete is 100% liable for what goes into his or her system.

Although many of our athletes left SA months ago to train and compete overseas, SAIDS still authorised testing on them. “These tests were done in conjunction with our international counterparts in Italy, Switzerland, US and other countries where South African Olympians were residing,” says Galant.

In the lead up to the London Games, SAIDS was not the only African agency to increase testing. “We assisted many of our African countries from Nigeria to Angola to Botswana in testing their athletes and supporting them toward increasing the drug testing capacity in their respective countries,” he explains. “South African athletes also want the assurance that irrespective of whether they compete at the Olympic Games or the All Africa Games that all the athletes in the competitive arena are ‘clean’.”

At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, there were 20 doping positive cases of which none were South Africans. “We are hoping to maintain this clean record and wish Team SA well on their way to the 2012 London Olympics.”

SAIDS have recently developed an innovative app, giving SA’s professional athletes access to the list of banned and permitted substances in sport. Athletes can download the app for free from both the Apple and Blackberry App Stores.

The Institute is encouraging all South African Olympians, coaches and fans to take the ‘I Play Fair – Say NO! To Doping’ pledge by visiting www.drugfreesport.org.za the mobi-site: m.drugfreesport.org.za, on the Facebook Page (iplayfairZA) or via Twitter (@iplayfairZA)