Olympic anti-doping role for Harpenden scientist

DOPING athletes competing in London 2012 have been warned there is a good chance they will be tested, with a Harpenden scientist a key figure in helping to flush out drugs cheats at the Games.

David Hassall, director of inhaled sciences at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Stevenage, has been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take on the role of doping control station manager during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

A runner for more than 30 years with a black belt in karate, David will be responsible for managing anti-doping in the Velodrome, which is hosting cycling events, and Hadleigh Farm, where mountain biking is being held.

David works at the company’s pharmaceuticals and research and development site in Stevenage, researching asthma medication and respiratory illness relief.

He is one of only nine people from the company, which has more than 16,000 employees throughout the UK, to have the honour of being a doping control station manager.

The researcher said that when told he had secured the prominent role at the Olympics he, “jumped up and down”.

A keen athlete, David still runs 30 miles a week. His sporting background inspired him to apply for the role, as he has competed in athletics, half-marathons and 10-mile races.

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While on-site at the Velodrome and Hadleigh Farm, David will schedule tests – mostly urine and some blood – and ensure chaperones meet and escort athletes to the doping control station.

He also has to ensure samples are securely transferred to the London 2012 Anti-Doping Science Centre, super-fast and sensitive anti-doping laboratories provided by GSK in Harlow and headed by Professor David Cowan from the drug control centre at King’s College, London.

The recently refitted lab is the size of seven tennis courts.

More than 6,250 samples will be analysed throughout the London 2012 Games, which at up to 400 a day is more than at any previous Games. Every medallist and up to half of all athletes attending the Games will be tested.

David said that results of drugs tests on athletes would be known up to 48 hours afterwards.

More than 240 different prohibited substances will be tested for at the lab.

n Last week national organisation UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) announced it had completed its pre-Olympics prevention programme, meeting more than 1,800 long and shortlisted Team GB athletes and their support personnel.

UKAD’s director of communication Nicola Newman said: “We want every British athlete competing in the Games to be proud of their achievements as clean athletes and confident they understand anti-doping risks and responsibilities.”