Anti-doping officials are planning to use “sniffer dogs” to combat doping in sports in the latest sign that they have lost the war on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) is proposing the use of drug detection dogs as the latest weapon in the cat-and-mouse game with athletes.
UKAD Chairman Trevor Pearce made the announcement after the British government approved a 50% increase in funding for the organization. One thing is for sure. UKAD didn’t waste any time finding a way to blow through the extra taxpayer funds.
Pearce hedged his bets on the use of sniffer dogs as the next frontier in its anti-doping efforts. He admitted that the initiative may be a failure but at least it could be for good public relations. Pearce hopes the public will see it as a sign that UKAD is doing something about the problem. The public will probably just see it as a sign of desperation in the futile fight against doping.
“Putting a passive sniffer dog at an event where it may sniff out illicit substances is a good disruption technique,” according to Pearce. “It might not have any success, but nonetheless it is drawing attention to people that we are trying to think of a range of measures.”
UKAD has apparently given a lot of thought to the use of “sniffer dogs” as way to help spend the extra £6 million it will receive over the next two years. UKAD doesn’t just want to parade drug detection dogs at major sporting events. It also wants unleash drug dogs at out-of-competition venues where athletes are known to train.
“It is not beyond the realms of possibility that we will see sniffer dogs at major sporting events in this country, but in terms of out-of-competition venues, in terms of training venues, these are the sorts of issues we can push forward.”
Steroid and PED use remains rampant in amateur and elite sports according several recent surveys. And traditional drug testing has largely failed to catch many doping offenders. So it comes as no surprise that anti-doping officials are looking for new avenues to tackle the doping problem. But sniffer dogs?
Police have historically trained dogs to detect narcotic drugs such as heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, crack, ecstasy, methamphetamine and marijuana. Can drug dogs detect anabolic steroids, growth hormone and other PEDs?
Law enforcement agencies in the United States have regularly train 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 specifically included anabolic steroids as a target drug in its program for almost a decade.
UKAD’s proposed sniffer dog program honestly seems destined for failure. It seems to presume that athletes are regularly walking around with PEDs on their person and/or in their duffel bag. Most patterns of PED don’t require athletes to keep PEDs with them at all times. In most instances, the PEDs never leave home.
If UKAD wants its sniffer dog program to have any chance of success, it would need to train dogs to detect prohibited substances circulating inside the human body. Alternatively, UKAD would need to acquire the legal right to execute search warrants (with the use of drug dogs) on athlete residences. Athletes have already given up an unbelievable amount of privacy to appease anti-doping officials. It seems unlikely that they would allow officials to further encroach upon their privacy without putting up a fight.
Roan, D. (April 17, 2018). UK Anti-Doping to increase testing by 50% backed by new government funds. Retrieved from bbc.com/sport/43798297