The Games have been officially opened! For the armchair athlete, the next few weeks will provide a feast for the eyes, as winners are determined and medals handed out at a number of Olympic and Paralympic sporting events in Torino, Italy.
We must note, however, that these will only be the interim winners of the XX Olympic Winter Games. We won't know the true victors for another eight years.
Article 17 of the World Anti-Doping Code, Statute of Limitations, states:
No action may be commenced against an Athlete or other Person for a violation of an anti-doping rule contained in the Code unless such action is commenced within eight years from the date the violation occurred.
Furthermore, in Section 6.5 of the IOC Anti-Doping Rules for the XX Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Storage of Samples and Delayed Analysis:
Samples shall be stored in a secure manner at the laboratory or as otherwise directed by the IOC and may be further analysed. Consistent with Article 17 of the Code the ownership of the samples is vested in the IOC for the eight years. During this period, the IOC shall have the right to re-analyse samples (taken during the Period of the Olympic Games). Any anti-doping rule violation discovered as a result thereof shall be dealt with in accordance with these Rules. After this period, the ownership of the samples shall be transferred to the laboratory storing such samples, provided that all means of identification of the Athletes will be destroyed and that proof of this destruction shall be provided to the IOC.
The primary significance of these rules lies in the fact that we are on the cusp of a new form of performance enhancement in sport: gene doping. Gene doping, a method prohibited by WADA, involves some sort of manipulation of the genetic code to gain a performance benefit — currently evading standard detection methods in the process.
Most experts believed that Beijing 2008 would be the first GMOs — genetically-modified Olympics. But it appears that gene doping is already here. A recent story, reported by The Australian, details the use of Repoxygen, a drug designed to treat serious anaemia by providing the human body the gene with which it can stimulate production of erythropoietin (EPO). As a result, more EPO can be produced, which can carry more oxygen to muscles and reduce muscle fatigue, which of course would provide enormous benefit to high-performance athletes.
As mentioned earlier, however, there is currently no test available to detect if gene doping has taken place. Thus, authorities in Torino have made special reference in the media to the fact that they will be keeping blood and urine samples on hand well into the future in case such a test emerges.
So, on top of the $7 billion spent on security at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens or the already $150 million spent on the smaller Winter Olympics in Torino, we must now also incur the cost of securing archived specimen bottles of blood and urine in a laboratory somewhere against possible corruption or contamination? This seems to me a peculiar development — all to authenticate and ensure the unique Truth of a modern sport victory eight years from now.
Citius, altius, fortius — we go faster and faster each successive Games, though determining a winner becomes ever slower and slower.