Drug testing methods stuck in the 1970s, says former WADA head
LONDON: Drug testing methods in sport are still rooted in the 1970s and better technology is needed to catch more than "dopey dopers", former World Anti-Doping head David Howman said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC), Howman told delegates there had to be more effective systems.
"We all know that urine analysis has not advanced much," said the New Zealander, who left the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2016 and is now chairman of the Athletics Integrity Unit.
"We're still in a position where we're getting the same number of positive cases each year, and many of them are in the category of what I call the 'dopey dopers' - the inadvertent dopers, or the ones who are just darned stupid."
Howman, a lawyer, said he had been reproached in his time at WADA by scientists for not considering more innovative technology. "We've worked out other ways of doing forensic science in terms of solving crime. Why aren't we doing something more innovative," he said.
He mentioned thumb- or finger-pricking tests, which other experts said could become painful over time and were also a sensitive issue for athletes using their hands, or airport-security-style scanning. A later presentation discussed capillary collection devices, which are less invasive than venous sampling.
Matthew Fedoruk of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said such alternative methods were being tested but urine samples remained the 'gold standard'. Howman, who explained that he was trying to provoke and challenge, said the main thing was to look at the latest technology from an anti-doping standpoint.