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U Lab Aims to Keep Athletes Drug Free

U Lab Aims to Keep Athletes Drug Free

Posted - Mar. 12, 2004 at 4:43 p.m.



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Ed Yeates ReportingThe National Football League, the US Anti-Doping Agency and the US Olympic Committee have formed a partnership with the University of Utah, hoping to keep a new generation of athletes drug free.

The U's Center for Human Toxicology is about to open a new lab, only the second one of its kind in the country. The U's new Sports Medicine Research and Testing Lab will become only the second in the country now testing athletes during competition for drugs and steroids.

Dr. Matthew Slawson, Associate Dir., S.M.R.T.L: “It’s hard to predict what an athlete is going through when a hundredth of a second is between a gold medal and never being heard from again.”

It's that continuing pressure still tempting some to take illegal compounds to enhance performance. But new technology being developed in these labs will make that part of the game for a few - harder and harder to win. The challenge is to stay ahead of the next drug someone tries to slip through.

Dr. Slawson: "I have no doubt that there are underground chemists that are constantly trying to figure out a way to modify existing steroids and drugs in a way that they won't be detected."

While this lab is bad news for the violator, it will benefit the honest athlete, the one trying to enhance performance with legitimate dietary supplements.

Dr. Diana Wilkins, Associate Dir., SMRTL: "Can we document for the athlete that the substance they are going to be taking is free of banned substances so they can be assured that no, they're not going to test positive?"

New drug technology will zero in on things athletes sometimes put under their tongue. While legal in that form, they turn into an illegal steroid once metabolized. Toxicologists will also find ways to identify medicines taken for legitimate illnesses so they don't test positive on a test.

In all, the U's lab will become a valuable research resource center for the US Olympic Committee, the NFL, and many other groups.

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