Testing for drug use by athletes in the 1980 Olympic Games is expected to be the most exhaustive ever attempted.
Laboratory equipment and procedures will be used to test for all five categories of drugs banned by the International Olympic Committee:
Psychomotor stimulants, including amphetamines, cocaine and many related compounds.
Sympathomimetic amines, such as ephidrine, which are physiologically similar to adrenaline in activating the sympathetic (involuntary) nervous system, regulation such functions as pulse rate, blood pressure and volume and distribution of minerals.
Miscellaneous central nervous system stimulants, including strychnine and a number of chemicals in the brain.
Narcotic analgesics, including codeine, morphine, heroin, methadone and related compounds.
Anabolic steroids, synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone used for their anabolic (tissue-building) properties.
Some Western athletes who expect testing at the Summer Games in Moscow to be lax because they suspect that East Europeans are heavy drug users and that the Soviet hosts will not want to turn them in are likely to be surprised.
"The capacity of the labs in Moscow seems to be perfectly adequate, and the testing will be carefully overseen by the Medical Commission of the IOC, which has some top-notch people from many countries on it," said Dr. Dan Hanley, the U.S. representative.
Current plans are for the top four finishers in each event to have urine samples taken and tested. Other participants chosen randomly also will be tested.
These samples will be analyzed with sophisticated methods, including mass spectrometry and gas chromotography, and computerized reading of data should allow staff personnel to conduct hundreds of tests on each sample within hours.
Testing in Moscow will be more complete than that in Montreal in 1976, according to Victor Rogozhin, chairman of the 13-member Anti-Doping Committee chosen by the organizers of the Games.
"In Montreal, for instance, the discovery of steriod hormones in biological samples was very difficult. It took 96 hours, and part of the tests were completed only two weeks after the end of the Games, which considerably delayed the determination of the winners and the summing up of the results of the Games. Of course, such a delay evoked serious criticism from the IOC and international sports federations," Rogozhin wrote in a recent statement.
"Taking this experience into account, we have conducted important research on improving methods of detecting steroid hormones and reducing the time necessary for the test. We already have a more rapid and exact method of discovering hormones in the biological samples taken from athletes. This will make it possible not only to increase the number of tests for this group of drugs, but also to carry them out according to the regulations established for the antidoping laboratory by the Medical Commission of the International Olympic Committee."
Testing undoubtedly works as a deterrent to drug use to some extent, especially in the Olympics, where athletes know there will be widespread testing.
Track and Field News in October 1976 ran a comparison of the personal best performances of all athletes before the Olympics, and at the Olympics.
For all Olympics between 1948 and 1972, the average falloff in performance for all competitors from their best was 1.9 percent. At Montreal, the falloff was 3.2 percent.
"It is safe to conclude," the magazine decided, "that marks were significantly off because the throwers stopped taking steroids."
Nevertheless, old hands do not underestimate the resourcefulness of athletes in confonding even the most sophisticated testing methods.
"Athletes seem to have the timing down to the minute as to how soon they have to 'get off' a drug to avoid detection," said a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee medical staff.
"You'd also swear they had Ph.D. pharmacologists working for them to figure out how to beat tests almost faster than the antidoping scientists can make them more sensitive.
"Back in 1968, when we just started testing, one athlete's urine tested surprisingly alkaline," he recalled. "We didn't know what was up. It turned out that he knew the test for stimulants could be thrown off by taking sodium bicarbonate. I'm pretty certain the athletes learned this before the drug testers did.
"They were also quick to develop what we call 'poly-pharmacy.' If you take small doses of a whole bunch of different stimulants, you can get about the same effect as a big dose of one while making the testing very difficult.
"It's phenomenal to me, and yet it's sad, that they should devote all this energy and ingenuity to cheating."