Managing Lab Standards like an Olympian

Blood doping test methods have become increasingly comprehensive and sensitive, which makes it more difficult for athletes to get away with doping. Nevertheless, scandals still make headline news. We all remember when Lance Armstrong’s transgressions were finally admitted to; he relied on extremely sophisticated deception methods including casting an entire team of cyclists, supporting health care professionals and lawyers for years, before finally admitting to doping. Most recently, Russian athletes have come under scrutiny and many were banned from competing at the Olympic games due to state sanctioned falsification of test results, indicating that the labs, or workers there were involved.

Taking banned performance enhancing drugs is more difficult than ever and often requires insiders in the lab in order to pull it off. The process for testing an athlete involves choosing a sealed container and inspecting it to make sure there is no evidence of tampering, being subject to a body search to ensure there is nothing available to substitute the sample and finally collecting and sealing the sample. It is almost impossible to tamper with the sample once collected. Paperwork before and after the collection must be carefully maintained as any mix up of results could be career ending.

Whether it is a routine blood test at a doctor’s office or a blood doping test for sports, it is crucial for labs to follow strict processes in collecting samples as well as recording results. No one wants misinformation. To prevent unauthorized people from accessing and tampering with lab samples and records, labs can take steps improve the security of their facilities and integrity of their tests.

Regularly changing passwords to digital records and varying authorization levels help prevent individuals from accessing digital records and other sensitive information. Automated patient information intake prevents intentional changes or unintentional errors. Making sure the sample matches the patient seems obvious, but there is potential for mistakes when information isn’t consistent across records. Minimizing manual entry and paperwork has more benefits than merely increasing efficiency or moving toward a paperless environment. The fewer the opportunities for tampering the better.