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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Testing times
By Scarlett Elworthy

UK Sport's new head of anti-doping Andy van Neutegem
Van Neutegem plans a new approach to catching the cheats
Special detective-style psychological profiling will be introduced in Britain to help catch sport's drugs cheats.

The approach - bearing similarities to TV sleuth Cracker - is the brainchild of UK Sport's new head of anti-doping.

Canadian sports psychologist Andy van Neutegem identifies 'drug triggers' in athletes' careers, such as injuries, to pinpoint exactly the best time to test.

"We are in the process of developing a science behind testing," the 39-year-old told BBC Sport.

UK Sport is also planning to increase out-of-competition tests as part of an effort to get one step ahead of the cheats in the build-up to the 2012 London Olympics.

Van Neutegem, a former head of sport and recreation at Bournemouth University, has spent years working with athletes in Britain and, most recently, Vancouver in a bid to understand the causes of drug-use in sport.

And as Helsinki prepares to host the most heavily drugs-tested single sports event ever - the World Athletics Championships - he acknowledges that the doping war may never be wholly won.

"The illegal use of drugs in sport remains an ongoing issue. The rewards are so great, there will always be a temptation to cheat," he said.

Van Neutegem is one of several academics who are developing computer models of 'triggers' - or 'high-risk zones' - in athletes' careers to help predict susceptibility to drugs.

"In the UK we already have a good criteria behind our testing programme and I have been impressed with the quality of the team and the commitment that exists to fighting doping," Van Neutegem said.

"But we need to develop it to enable greater transparency and improve the effectiveness of testing as a deterrent.

"I don't want to give too much away, but just as there is a science behind getting an athlete from the playground to the podium, so we are in the process of developing a science behind testing.

"An athlete goes through numerous 'transitions' in the course of their career.

"From that it is possible to create a picture of when they would be most susceptible to using drugs.

"But it is not a one model fits all. To recognise the type of triggers that lead to drugs use, you first have to understand an athlete's long-term development strategy, their performance history and lifestyle."

Van Neutegem's new post was created in the wake of last year's independent review of UK Sport's anti-doping measures.

But effectively the Toronto-born anti-doping expert, who has net-minded for Elite League ice hockey side Basingstoke, replaces former director Michele Verroken, who resigned in April 2004 following a shake-up at the organisation.

And as he seeks to develop his techniques, Van Neutegem says he plans to work very closely with the nation's athletes, coaches and individual sport's governing bodies.

"I want all aspects of our work in anti-doping to be more athlete-focused," he said.

"We are really committed to developing the best anti-doping programme in the world and do not want to be perceived just as testers.

MOST HEAVILY TESTED SPORTS
UK
1 Football
2 Athletics
3 Rugby League
WORLDWIDE
1 Football
2 Athletics
3 Cycling

"Rather, we are here to safeguard the interests of all those athletes who want to compete drug-free."

A total of 6,500 tests were conducted by UK Sport between March 2004 and March 2005 across 50 sports, with 1.5% of those returning a positive result.

To put that in perspective, figures from the World Anti-Doping Agency show 37,047 tests were carried out in America during 2004 - 0.98% of which were positive.

The same statistics reveal Germany, France, Italy and Australia also carried out well over 7,500 tests last year, though only Australia recorded a lower failure rate (0.88%) than the UK.

However, UK Sport aims to increase the number of tests it conducts by 500 a year for the next two years as Van Neutegem seeks to ensure the country's anti-doping measures are state-of-the-art ahead of the 2012 Games.

"As with all areas of British sport, we will be increasingly in the spotlight as we move towards London 2012," he added.

TESTING TIMES
UK costs: 350 per test
Funding: UK Sport's testing backed by Department of Culture, Media and Sport

Governing bodies can fund extra testing within their sport - Rugby Football League has put extra money into tackling drugs
"It is therefore vital that everything we do is truly world-class."

John Scott, UK Sport's director of drug-free sport, who will oversee Van Neutegem's work , has also revealed plans to increase out-of-competition testing.


UK Sport's latest figures show that of the 1,276 tests across 35 sports conducted between 1 April and 30 June, 41% were out-of-competition.

But Scott wants that statistic to rise to 50%.

He said: "Out-of-competition testing is widely accepted as being the most effective in terms of a deterrent for anyone who might be tempted to misuse prohibited substances.

"With this in mind, we have developed a new system for gathering 'whereabouts information' on sportsmen and women.

"This system is gradually being rolled out across all the sports, with swimming, athletics and judo amongst those to come on board."




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