An ambitious trip to keep World Cup clean

Added On June 23, 2014

The World Cup is fanning up a global frenzy for the sport of football. 
To retain that popularity and preserve the integrity of competition, FIFA, the international governing body of football, is on an ambitious mission.
For the first time ever, every single player who takes part in the tournament has to undergo a drug test. 
But the World Anti-Doping Agency withdrew its accreditation for the only facility in the hosting country Brazil last year for repeated errors.
All the samples have to be flown to a laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, a costly trip covering thousands of miles.
Rio de Janeiro, now the city of football.
Croidettes No. 22, Lausanne, the Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses, known as the LAD.
After a trip of some 5,000 miles, these samples are, perhaps, the world's most expensive.
"So it seems the million-dollar question here really is: why must more than 70 litters of urine and blood samples be flown from venues in Brazil, to Lausanne, Switzerland, with an extra cost of 250 thousand USD. Also flight between these two countries normally takes 13 hours. So would the quality of the samples be affected? And exactly how are doping analyses carried out?"
To find out the answers, I talked to the laboratory director Martial Saugy.
He himself used to train as an athlete at college and he could go on and on about football…
"You know I love sports, and I hate cheating."
To get both, Saugy settles on this job -- to catch those who play foul.
Saugy played a part in establishing the LAD, which has cooperated with FIFA for 15 years. 
But being the only testing lab for the 2014 tournament, the mission this time turns out ambitious and challenging.
The workload is heavier than ever, the distance is an ocean's apart, and it's a race against time.
Within 10 minutes after every match, two players from each team are randomly selected to provide blood and urine samples. The samples then must be analyzed within 24 hours after being drawn. 
"And you have for each player, you have two samples. So the urine is divided into these two samples. And these two samples are shipped to the laboratory at 4 degrees Celsius. In the guidelines, in order to preserve the samples, it must be less than 36 hours before to arrive to the lab." 
The samples are delivered in a way that living organs are taken care of. And the results must come out before the player's next match several days later.
Behind this door is where all the cracking get started.
"This is one of the more than 700 samples received from before the World Cup actually started. It's from the out-of-competition. But also in order to protect the privacy of the player, the bar code has been covered with a sticker. As you can see, this is marked with a yellow marker. The A sample. As Martial just explained, if some certain substances have been detected from the sample A, and after they get the confirmation or agreement from the player, they will open the sample B, which is marked with a blue marker."
Nicolas Jan is the LAD's informatics officer. He explains how the work is done.
"So now we will open the bottle. So first we control that the bottle is well sealed. We cannot open the bottle. To open it, we use this automatic machine, which will break the cap. And after that we can remove the cap. So as it is forbidden to introduce anything into the kit, we first allocate the samples into what we call a father sample."   
One final check, before the test is set in motion.
"Ok, so this thing here is a redistribution machine. You see the four green needles. They draw samples taken out of the sealed bottles, and then redistribute the samples into these smaller test tubes. The way it works is really meticulously accurate. And one of the best things the staff here say, is that it never makes a mistake."
Now the samples are all set. Jan will take them downstairs, first for the samples to fully culture in warm water, then to the final stop-- a room of machines that boast world-class technology.
The moment of truth? 
Not just yet. It takes a while for the results to pop up.
"Quite honestly, walking into this room already gives me a thrill, looking at all these heavy machines, which are key to the doping analyses. These machines are capable of detecting hundreds of substances that are doping-related." 
FIFA primarily seeks traces of blood-boosting drugs, human growth hormone, and anabolic steroids. All three substances increase an athlete's performance, and some help them gain strength. 
Saugy says current technology is capable to screen out most drugs on the market, but there're still difficulties to get the cheaters. 
"Our main problem is the detection window. It is, you know, the time you can catch the cheaters. And this is strongly depending on when you are doing the test."
Once the results come in, the lab reports to both FIFA and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
FIFA has decided to keep Brazil 2014 samples for eight years, creating the so-called biological passports...the first time in the World Cup history. This, would allow retrospective testing in the future.
The last player who failed a drugs test during the final was Argentina great Diego Maradona.
He tested positive for five types of stimulants during the 1994 tournament in the United States. He was withdrawn and then suspended.
This year, FIFA suspended three players for positive tests during qualifying. 
One of them was midfielder Joel Sanchez, from Peru, who received a two-year ban.
For staff of the LAD, the goal is clear-- no drugs are allowed to work in the beautiful game of football. 
"What is very important for me in that job is that we have to fight against the cheaters." 
And for this former athlete, job does get personal.
"The answer to the question is it just my job. No it's not just my job. You know this is part of my life, I would say."
"Analysts at this lab are waiting for the first batch of samples to arrive as we speak. And it seems that FIFA and scientists like Martial Saugy are taking a hard stand against doping. Great efforts, time, and let alone all the money spent. But in the end it seems it's worth it all. Because they ensure the tranquility and fairness of the game, and also encourage people to put fun back into the sport. Gu Dunyu, CNC World, Lausanne."