A professor based in Eastbourne has discovered a test to catch doping cheats – and it could be introduced at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Instead of looking for traces of illegal drugs in urine and blood samples, Professor Yannis Pitsiladis, at the University of Brighton’s campus in Meads has researched RNA or Ribonucleic acid which together with DNA and proteins are essential for all forms of life.
And he has discovered drugs can leave a tell-tale signature in RNA.
He said, “The breakthrough test can identify gene markers in blood if an athlete has taken banned substances – and the markers can still be identified many weeks after the drugs have been taken.
“The WADA labs can, with near perfect sensitivity, measure the presence of a drug while in the body. Our research focuses on the fingerprint banned substances leave behind allowing a greater window of opportunity to catch the cheaters long after the drug has left the system – this is the beauty of this approach.”
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says the test could well be introduced in Japan in 2020.
He said, “This test will add to the fact that the pre-Games testing programme for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be the most extensive programme ever, aimed to maximise both detection and deterrence.”
Professor Pitsiladis was awarded more than £540,000 to research the new cutting-edge test with most of the funding coming from the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The professor said, “I have been dreaming of this moment for so long and mostly believing this would not happen in my lifetime.
“The timing of this development has the potential to be the giant leap for clean sport we have all been dreaming of.
“Those who are doping or supporting cheating should take note and I suspect there will be plenty of disturbed sleep.”