Against Drugs in Sports
In my day job as a scientist, I consult for organizations that fight doping in sports and test athletes for performance-enhancing drugs. These are prohibited in sports to protect fair play and the athletes’ health. I worked with Dr. Don Catlin at the UCLA Olympic Lab beginning in 1984, including as the lab Associate Director for over a decade. I write about drugs in sports for readers of all ages.
- because in 1984, when the Olympics were coming to Los Angeles, I heard myself say, “I wish I could be the one inventing lab drug tests!”
- because as a pharmacist, I know about drugs; as a Ph.D. Analytical-Organic Chemist, I know how to identify drugs; and as a bilingual person (French and English) I know the two official languages of the International Olympic Committee, World Anti-Doping Agency, and Court of Arbitration for Sport.
- and because I want to pass accurate information about drugs in sports to those who need to understand it to make decisions, including athletes, sports officials, lawyers, parents and children.
How I got a job at the UCLA Olympic Lab:
In 1984, while finishing my doctoral thesis work at the UCLA Chemistry Department, I read about the UCLA (School of Medicine) Olympic Lab in the campus papers. The lab used the same technology to identify drugs as the one I used for my research: mass spectrometry. I proposed to lab director Dr. Don Catlin to be his volunteer French interpreter for media interviews. He said, “I don’t need an interpreter, but I could use a mass spectrometrist. Would you like a job?” And I said, “Now there’s an idea!” We worked well together for many years.
A movement powered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that seeks to ensure a positive youth sport experience by imparting the lessons of clean competition, sportsmanship, and peak performance. For info tailored for educators, coaches, parents, or athletes, click here.
There are not many jobs available in anti-doping labs worldwide, but qualified persons might also find work in equine or workplace urine testing labs, crime labs, or environmental labs. Technicians typically have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or biochemistry and senior scientists (certifying scientists who certify test results, especially when a prohibited drug is found) typically have a master’s or Ph.D. Hands-on experience with drug extraction from biological samples or the main technologies, namely gas chromatography-mass spectrometry or liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, make job applicants much stronger. Those who do best in this line of work love detail, are good at complex repetitive tasks, and maintain a sharp sense of observation.