There is considerable concern
in the European Union over the abuse of drugs by athletes trying to improve
their performance. This phenomenon, which seems to be on the increase
worldwide, is worrying for both health and ethical reasons. Drugs testing
of athletes, known as doping control, has been shown to be one of the
most powerful weapons for combating the use of drugs in sports. ALADIN
2002 is a new project that aims to establish an external quality assurance
scheme for all Doping Control Laboratories so as to increase the legal
weight behind drugs tests and reduce the number of positive drug tests
being challenged in the courts.
a doping control laboratory
Doping in sport is becoming increasingly sophisticated
and sampling methods and testing procedures vary from one country to another.
The absence of harmonisation in this area has led to an increasing number
of doping accusations being contested. Such challenges are often very
costly to the controlling organisation. More importantly, however, these
disputed test results combine to weaken the authority of the testing bodies
and so may even encourage cheating.
seal of approval
doping control tests are required to be approved by the International
Olympic Committee (IOC). Additionally, in Europe, all testing
laboratories - not just in the sector of doping control, but also
in all sectors - have been required to comply with the European
Norm (EN45001). This standard is now being replaced by an international
quality standard (ISO 17025) and laboratories will henceforth be
required to obtain ISO approval before seeking accreditation from
The major requirement under the new standard
is that accredited laboratories have to participate in inter-comparison
studies and must demonstrate the regular use of adequate reference
materials. The aim of the ALADIN 2002 project is to develop the
external quality assurance scheme that would meet these needs.
European IOC accredited labs would then have
the means to support their application for ISO accreditation. The
project is co-ordinated by the Institut Municipal d'Investigacio
Medica (IMIM) in Barcelona, in close collaboration with the IOC
laboratories in London (United Kingdom), Cologne (Germany) and Oslo
(Norway). Prof. Rafael de la Torre of IMIM stresses the advantages
of ISO accreditation: "In the past, the IOC has been criticised
for being too closely involved in the accreditation process.
ISO accreditation will provide greater transparency
and accountability and thus support the legitimacy of testing results."
The long-term aim of the project is to develop an effective external
quality assurance scheme which will itself receive ISO accreditation
(ISO 43) and, once up and running, can be taken over by an independent
the key to quality
The initial stage
of the project will involve the development of a supply of standard
reference samples through a network of laboratories collaborating
in the project. The quality, stability and validity of the samples
under various conditions (for example, the effect of the packaging
when samples need to be transported over long distances and the
length of time they are stored etc.) will need to be controlled
and common protocols developed. As a second stage, a co-ordinated
programme will be introduced for the distribution of samples to
the doping control laboratories. The participating laboratories
will be provided with different samples on an ongoing basis and
the results they obtain monitored to control quality. In order to
manage this part of the project, it will be necessary to develop
an effective data network linking all the IOC accredited laboratories.
This will make it possible to track the supply of samples and the
relevant results for each centre, and to detect possible problem
Prof. David Cowan of the Drug Control Centre
at Kings College, London (IOC accredited) stresses that the aim
is not necessarily to harmonise methods but to ensure that quality
is consistent across all centres regardless of the methods used.
"We want to avoid a method-specific approach as this may impede
progress. It is, however, important to be able to demonstrate that
results are consistent from one country to another and that all
centres conform to the same high quality standards."
||Setting the global
Although the majority,
around 60% of doping control laboratories, are based in Europe,
Prof de la Torre points out that the ultimate goal must be to establish
an international quality assurance scheme for this sector.
"This is a relatively small sector in terms
of the number of samples that are tested, but it is a highly complex
one, and it is important that we co-ordinate our efforts on a global
level." In this context, ALADIN 2002 has already obtained the
support of the newly formed World
Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which will collaborate closely in
the project. It will also draw on the experiences of a number of
similar initiatives, which have been conducted on a smaller scale
in other parts of the world.
Research under the support
for research infrastructures section of the Growth
programme is developing an external quality assurance scheme
for Doping Control Laboratories adhering to International Standards
Organisation (ISO) quality guidelines.
ALADIN 2002 Analytical Laboratories for Anti-Doping
control - International Network (GTC1-2000-28005)