A four-year old Springer Spaniel named Molly has gained recognition as the world’s first anti-doping “sniffer dog”. The Swedish Sports Confederation (Riksidrottsförbundet – RF) unveiled Molly in action at an ice hockey rink in Stockholm on September 22, 2018. Molly was specifically trained to detect anabolic steroids and other banned performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Michael Sjoo, a UEFA doping control officer and Riksidrottsförbundet doping manager, works as Molly’s handler. Molly was originally trained as a narcotics canine by the Swedish Customs Service (Tullverket) before she was transferred to work for Swedish anti-doping authorities.
“She’s trained for doping substances instead…an intensive training,” Sjoo said. “She’s been living and staying with a customs dog handler for six months, daily, repeatedly training in order to teach her all the substances she can detect.”
“She can detect a lot of substances, of course steroids and of course testosterone…She can detect powder, tablets and even ampoules with liquid in them.”
Various law enforcement agencies, particularly in the United States, have been training dogs to imprint for the odor of non-narcotic “anabolic steroids”. For example, the Connecticut State Police Academy’s Narcotics Detection K-9 Course has included anabolic steroids as a target drug for almost a decade.
Earlier this year, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) Chairman Trevor Pearce revealed that drug detection dogs represented the next frontier in the anti-doping organization’s efforts to catch steroid and PED users in sports. UKAD envisioned using sniffer dogs to scout out the locker rooms and training venues for major sporting events.
Sjoo referenced UKAD’s efforts to make steroid detection dogs a cutting edge tool in the fight against doping. Sjoo also shared Pearce’s enthusiasm for the potential utility of dogs like Molly in the fight against doping in sports.
“I already know that different anti-doping organizations are also looking into this thing, with a new anti-doping dog,” Sjoo said. “We need new tools, of course we test the athletes now for urine and more for blood but we need to find something else.”
Sjoo seemed happy to help Sweden become the first country to realize the potential of a steroid detecting canine.