Drugs in sport: New blood spot testing designed to level playing field on international stage

Anti-drug agencies hope a new drug test for Kiwi athletes will help tackle doping issues in international sport.

Newshub has had an exclusive look at the 'dried blood spot test', before it becomes part of the testing toolkit for athletes.

Kiwi Olympian Dylan Schmidt showed how it's done. With one push, the needle pricks his arm. Then, as it's released, it's all over. 

"Barely felt it," said Schmidt, who captured trampolining bronze at Tokyo last year. "It's easy."

The blood sample drops onto the paper below, a much quicker process than urinating into a container.

"Sometimes, depending on the competition, urine can take a while and that can be shown on TV," said Schmidt. "That can be quite intrusive." 

That's something the trampolinist would rather not go through.

Dried blood spot testing was first used in mainstream sport at this year's Beijing Winter Olympics. It doesn't replace other drug tests, but it is another tool to tackle cheating.

"There are athletes internationally who want to cheat," said Drug Free Sport NZ chief executive Nick Paterson. "They are always trying new things, they try finding new ways to get substances into their bodies."

"There are enormous challenges with doping in sport and integrity in sport, and one of the things with doping is it's always changing," said three-time NZ Winter Olympian Ben Sandford, now chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency athlete committee.

Dylan Schmidt celebrates his Olympic bronze medal
Dylan Schmidt celebrates his Olympic bronze medal. Photo credit: Getty

Technology is also changing, From next month, the test will be used at random on New Zealand athletes.

"To prove to our international competitors that our guys are clean and if they win, it's based on strength, it's based on training, it's based on what they can do," said Paterson. 

The Government boosted funding to Drug Free Sport New Zealand last year by $4.3 million to address doping challenges in international sport. Some of that cash was used to introduce the new test, which athletes hope will help level the playing field.

"You all put in the hard work, and so much effort and time in training being a clean athlete, you don't want to lose out to someone who is cheating," said Schmidt.

Especially when going to such heights on the world stage.