31 July 2012

London 2012 Anti-Doping Lab: Road to accreditation

The London 2012 Anti-Doping Laboratory looks set  to conduct more tests than at any previous Olympic and Paralympic Games. Play True reviews the process whereby an Olympic laboratory gains accreditation.

The London 2012 Anti-Doping Laboratory received its accreditation from WADA on April 16, 2012. The Laboratory, which has facilities provided by GlaxoSmithKline and is located in Harlow, Essex, northeast of London, is a satellite laboratory of the WADA accredited King’s College Drug Control Centre.

The Laboratory will analyze up to 6,250 samples over 27 days of competition during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, compared to the 7,500 King’s College normally deals with over the course of a year. Furthermore, the samples require a 24-hour turnaround for reporting of results.

In order to have the capacity to handle such a high volume of samples in such a short period of time, the Drug Control Centre has temporarily moved its operation to the new Harlow location specifically for the Games testing.

Moving to a new location involves going through a comprehensive accreditation process to ensure that the mandatory standards –  ISO/IEC 17025 and WADA International Standard for Laboratories (ISL) – are met. This is not a simple task.

WADA’s Laboratory Accreditation Manager, Thierry Boghosian, knows firsthand what it takes to get a satellite anti-doping laboratory ready for the Olympic Games.

Not only has Mr. Boghosian been involved in the accreditation procedure of laboratories for the Olympic and Paralympic Games through his role at WADA, he also was in charge of the relocation of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, which was temporarily moved to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“A satellite laboratory needs to increase its resources in terms of space, instrumentation and personnel, and then there is the additional obstacle of moving that instrumentation and staff – including external experts – to the new facilities, so it adds another layer of complexity,” explained Mr. Boghosian.

“The accreditation of a laboratory for the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a very involved process,” added Mr. Boghosian, who conducted the second of the three on-site visits a relocated laboratory requires to maintain its accreditation.

This visit occurs once the laboratory has received most of its equipment and established its methods, and it is conducted to determine whether the laboratory has met the technical requirements of the ISL and its related technical documents.

A technical assessment involves the evaluation of a laboratory’s status in terms of equipment, staffing and capacity to meet the requirements of Games testing.

At this point, the laboratory should be aware of the test distribution planning – effectively the number, frequency, sample type, sport selections and/or placing and location of the tests – which will dictate the amount of personnel and equipment required during the Games period.

The number of samples, including those for blood, that need to be analyzed during summer Olympic and Paralympic Games has consistently increased from one Olympiad to the next.

“Anti-Doping science continues to evolve and in response the laboratories implement the latest techniques, so it’s becoming more and more complex for the laboratories to prepare for Games testing,” explained Boghosian.

The ISO/IEC 17025 and WADA’s ISL are internationally recognized standards, which leave very little room  for interpretation.

In order to ensure the accuracy of the results, every sample collected is divided into A and B samples, where,  in the case of an adverse analytical finding, the B sample  is used to confirm to results of the A sample.

“The rules for the analysis of samples by accredited anti-doping laboratories are stricter than in many other industries. In forensic science, for example, you don’t have a B sample confirmation,” added Mr. Boghosian.

During the standard process for accrediting a laboratory,  once accreditation has been granted there is no reason for a further site visit, unless an issue occurs which requires WADA’s attention.

For this reason, Mr. Boghosian’s final comment was delivered with a smile: “I am pleased that I have not been  required to visit the London Laboratory more than once.”