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"High" hurdle.

"HIGH" HURDLE

As the Tenth Pan AmericanGames get underway in Indianapolis, Indiana, this August, memories of a scandal that rocked the last games in Caracas, Venezuela, are sure to resurface. That 1983 event was marred when athletes' drug tests sent dozens of participants from several countries--including the United States--scurrying home in disgrace. Though the use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids is even more of a problem now, this year's cheaters could be in for a shock.

That shock could come at thehands of the $2 million Sports Medicine Drug Identification Laboratory. The state-of-the-art facility, based in the Indiana University Medical Center's department of pathology in Indianapolis, is one of three Olympic-certified drug testing centers in North America. During the games, the lab will provide test results from athletes' urine samples within 24 hours.

Carleton D. Nordschow, the directorof the lab, expects his staff to process 80 to 90 urine samples a day. The facility's full-time staff of 7 will be bolstered by 21 additional workers. The workers will be aided by state-of-the-art equipment--some of it so sensitive it can detect one molecule in a billion (comparable by some accounts to detecting a spoonful of sugar in an Olympic-sized pool). "That's a pretty tiny amount of anything," Nordschow says.

The facility currently conductsdrug testing for amateur athletic groups, as well as for numerous colleges and universities. An analysis of urine samples from the University of Oklahoma football team led to the suspension of a star linebacker, Brian Bosworth, and two other players from the national-championship contender. The three players tested positive for steroid use.

"Basically, what we are trying todo is detect trace levels of performance-enhancing drugs which were administered months earlier in many cases," says Nordschow, an 18-year veteran of the department of pathology. Because of a simpler molecular structure, cocaine, marijuana, and other "street drugs" are much easier to detect than are the performance-enhancing drugs used by competitors.

During the games, all athletes' urinesamples will be collected by Pan Am officials, divided into two samples, and sent to the drug-identification laboratory for analysis. The samples will also be labeled with a number to protect the identity of the athlete. If the initial test of the sample detects drugs, the athlete or a representative will be asked to appear at the laboratory when the second sample is analyzed.

Ronald Blankenbaker, the co-chairmanof the games' medical services division, says once it is confirmed that an athlete used banned drugs, authorities will review the case, talk to the athlete, and make a recommendation concerning the case to the Pan American Sports Organization, which oversees the games.

According to Blankenbaker, alsothe vice president for medical affairs at Indianapolis' St. Vincent Hospital, the roughly 1,000 athletes to be tested will include most medal winners and a random selection of other competitors. The number of random tests will vary from sport to sport because some events, such as weight lifting, have a higher incidence of drug use than other sports.

The story of the Olympic-leaguetesting facility began in 1983, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) urged each participating nation's Olympic committee to establish drug-testing facilities in its country. Soon afterward, the department of pathology, working with the U.S. Olympic Committee, agreed to make a long-term commitment to establish a laboratory and to become a secondary support center for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. "At that time, Indianapolis was beginning to develop a serious amateur-sports profile," Nordschow said. "We thought it would be appropriate to have a facility in the name of the United States in Indianapolis."

The lab's $1.5 million worth ofequipment includes such complicated devices as gas and liquid chromatographs, mass spectrometers, and centrifuges. Staff members must type a secret code into a panel on the lab's door to gain access to the facility. Inside the lavender-and-beige room, white-coated staff members involve themselves in the complex and noisy task of analyzing urine samples.

The lab's urine samples are separatedinto various "chemical families" using a centrifuge and then are dehydrated into chemical derivatives. Those by-products are then injected into instruments and the readings recorded and processed by computer.

IOC guidelines require five screensto be run on each urine sample: the first is for volatile stimulants; the second, for nonvolatile stimulants, Beta-blockers, and opiates; the third, for caffeine and pemoline; the fourth, for anabolic steroids; and the fifth, for diuretics. Diuretics are used by athletes to mask the presence of other drugs by diluting the urine. They were banned in April 1986 by the IOC, along with Beta-blockers, which are sometimes used by participants in shooting and archery events to give a steadier hand.

Pete Cava, spokesperson for theIndianapolis-based Athletics Congress, says an athlete may be asked to take a drug test anywhere, at any time. The Athletics Congress is the governing body for track and field, as well as long-distance running events in the United States.

Last December, Cuban representativesraised concerns with Pan Am officials that testing for the 200 or more drugs banned by the IOC would be inaccurate, leading to unwarranted disqualifications. Pan Am officials assured the Cubans every precaution would be taken to ensure the tests' accuracy and security.

In the meantime, city leaders arepleased with the lab's Olympic certification, saying it will h elp the city become a major center for amateur sporting events. Cheaters may be less pleased. "The way things are being done now, athletes know if they're using drugs, there's a good chance they'll get caught," Blankenbaker says.
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Title Annotation:drug testing and the Pan American games
Author:Callahan, Rick
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1987
Words:913
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