It's easy to get despondent about doping in sport, especially if you're a fan of running or cycling, each of which has been hard hit over the last few years by high-profile and particularly humiliating doping offenses. But, a telling graphic in an article in this week's Economist shows that testing works (story). No, it's not perfect - far from it - but from the time that out-of-competition testing started in the late 80's, the insane progression of speed and strength in athletes began to stanch markedly, falling to levels that seemed more believable, while still incredible.
However heartening, this graphic was a small side story in the article. The real focus of the piece was a recently released study that showed some real chinks in the armor of testosterone testing. Turns out genes have a huge influence on who tests positive in initial urine tests for the steroid. Athletes with a defective copy of a specific gene can dose up on testosterone and still have a good chance of not testing positive in doping tests. Conversely, athletes with two full-functioning copies of the same gene actually have a chance of testing positive even when they're completely clean. The study, in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (link), should throw a few monkey wrenches into the mix this summer in Beijing, even while Floyd Landis enjoys a glimpse of sun in his otherwise cloudy doping appeal.
(Photo by Mel B. used under Creative Commons)