If you know anything about sports, then you know that drug cheats are almost always one step ahead of the game. There are synthetic steroids and other kinds of PEDs that are almost impossible to detect. And with all the problems in pro sports, in addition to the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games, we need a solution.
And here it is. Undersea oil-drilling.
Yes, believe it or not, the science of undersea oil-drilling may actually help the sports world catch doping cheats. How so, you ask?
Well, I'm no scientician, so I'll just let the Times Online speak for me. It's bizarrely awesome.
British scientists prospecting the world’s deep-sea basins for oil have discovered that the same technique can be applied to catch drug cheats in sport.
The innovative steroid test developed by researchers at Imperial College, London, and the University of Nottingham uses a process known as hydropyrolysis to detect levels of drugs in urine accurately.
The new test enables anti-doping officials to tell the difference between naturally occurring human steroids and those injected into athletes and racehorses to boost performance.
Steroids produced naturally in the body have a heavier carbon content than synthetic substances but, until now, it has been difficult to measure the different carbon ratios.
Hydropyrolysis, which is most commonly used to aid oil exploration by freeing small fragments of organic matter from petroleum rock sources, is a step forward because it allows forensic scientists to separate carbon molecules without corrupting the original sample.
The inaccuracy of the current steroid test, caused by less sophisticated extraction methods, offers a grey area for drug cheats to hide.
Athletes caught by a positive test can, and do, argue that the test was flawed or that the steroids were naturally occurring as a result of something they ate or drank.
The new test leaves no room for conjecture, according to Mark Sephton, a meteorite specialist at Imperial, who chanced upon the discovery after a casual conversation two years ago with Nottingham’s Colin Snape, a hydropyrolysis expert helping oil firms to assess whether to drill for oil in ocean beds.
“This is unequivocal because the original carbon signature shines through. The carbon-based secrets of steroids are now apparent,” he said.
So, in other words, hydropyrolysis can separate unnatural steroids from natural steroids during testing, pretty much definitively proving that an athlete is doping. No more of the "It was something I ate" argument. Well, I guess you could still say that. But if you're eating synthetic steroids, you probably have bigger problems than failing a drug test.
I don't usually get excited by stuff like this, but this is legitimately cool. World anti-doping chiefs, who have given $225,000 this year to fund trials, hope the test will be the biggest breakthrough in the fight against performance-enhancing substances yet. It's expected to be ready for commercial use at the London Olympics in 2012.
Although I'm sure someone will find a way to slip past this eventual test, at least we can look forward to a few more athletes getting busted. That's always a lot of fun. Too bad we didn't get Roger Clemens with this test. Would have been kind of ironic to catch a Texan through oil drilling science.