SEA Games: Malaysian authorities to step up anti-doping testing

(BERNAMA)   More drug tests will be carried out at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, including blood screening which was introduced at the 2015 Games to weed out cheats.

More than 4,000 athletes from the 11 participating countries will face anti-doping testing that will be on par with Olympic standards, according to Datuk Dr S. S. Cheema, who heads the KL Games medical and anti-doping committee.

"There is no way to escape because we will test both urine and blood samples. Once the athletes check into their hotels, we will start to conduct random tests or out-of-competition tests at any time. Medal winners will  be tested 100 per cent," he told Bernama before the official opening of the Games on Aug 19. 

"The number of tests will be higher this time because Malaysia are hosting 38 sports and 404 events compared to 36 sports and 402 events in Singapore," said Dr Cheema.

However, he declined to reveal how many sample tests would be carried out compared to the 600-plus tests that were conducted by the Republic.

A task force of 150 including 80 anti-doping control officers from the Anti-Doping Agency of Malaysia (ADAMAS) will collect the samples, which are to be sent for testing in New Delhi, India, and the results can be expected as early as within 48 hours.

Positive results or any adverse analytical findings will be reported to the South-east Asia Regional Anti-Doping Organisation (SEARADO) and the KL Games organising committee.

"Common substance abuse among athletes include weight reducing and performance enhancing drugs, masking agents to disguise the presence of other drugs and erythropoietin, otherwise known as blood doping," said Dr Cheema.

"The type of the substance used depends on the sports, like beta blockers to ensure steady hands in sports like shooting and archery, steroids for stamina, speed and power, and diuretics to reduce weight so they (the athletes) can compete in a different category. Every sport can have cheats," he added.

Several participating countries are already taking precautions and have submitted more than 100 medical applications to Dr Cheema's committee for Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code.

However, most of the applications are not under the scope of the TUE, thus they are permitted by WADA, according to Dr Cheema.

About 1,700 personnel and 80 ambulances will be deployed with doctors and medical officers assigned to competition arenas and medical rooms in the various venues.

"We will even station specialists for high-impact sports like rugby, We have two Games medical centres - they are National Sports Institute and Klinik Kesihatan Kuala Lumpur - and serious cases will be sent to the nearest hospital," he added.