Vancouver unveils Olympic anti-doping lab

More than 2,000 urine and blood samples will be tested during the Vancouver Winter Olympics as part of a $16.4 million effort to catch drug cheats.

A state-of-the-art doping lab for the Feb. 12-28 Games was unveiled Wednesday at the Olympic speedskating oval in Richmond.

The 1,350-square-meter (14,530-square-feet) facility is a replica of the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab in Montreal. The building itself costs $8.9 million, with another $7.5 million for operations.

“This laboratory will utilize the finest techniques and methods available to detect the use of prohibited substances in blood and urine samples collected from athletes,” lab director Dr. Christiane Ayotte said.

However, Ayotte acknowledged it will be impossible to catch all cheaters.

“We cannot say pure sport, pure games,” she said. “We sure put in the best energy. I’m 100 percent confident that nobody can do better than what we are doing now, what we will be doing.”

In addition to standard testing, Vancouver anti-doping officials will also conduct random and target testing based on intelligence.

Starting in January, 30 technicians will be working at the lab around the clock. Testing will begin on Feb. 4, when pre-competition urine and blood samples are taken.

Vancouver officials said it’s probably the first time in Olympic history that a doping lab has been located within a secure sporting venue.

Nearly 500 trained volunteers will collect samples at the various sports venues in Vancouver and Whistler. Drivers will deliver the samples to the Richmond lab and deposit them through a slot, sending them directly into a refrigeration unit for processing.

Test results should be known within 72 hours.

About 2,000 samples will be taken from Olympic athletes, and 425 from athletes at the subsequent Paralympic Games. By comparison, 1,200 samples were tested during the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

After the games, the doping lab will be used to house a sports medicine center and sports science services.