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Drug Control Centre

DCC for Kings Forensics

Background

The internationally renowned King’s College London Drug Control Centre (DCC) was founded in 1978, and since then has been at the forefront of introducing advances in anti-doping science. It is the only WADA accredited laboratory in the UK, providing anti-doping analysis across a range of sports, analysing both domestic and international athletes.  The DCC was the first International Olympic Committee/WADA accredited laboratory to achieve ISO 17025 accreditation (UK Accreditation Service, UKAS) as a testing laboratory. Our staff have many years’ experience working in the field of anti-doping and are passionate about protecting both the integrity of sport and the health of athletes. 

The DCC carries out bioanalytical research into the areas especially of drug metabolism and detection of substances in the human body, with a selected list of publications from the DCC available here. In addition to this list, publications relating to individual staff are available on individual staff pages. The Centre also carries out work and consultancy services for the police, solicitors and the coroner. 

Our analytical staff are security protected; if you wish to contact us please go through the Centre administrators who will manage all incoming inquiries.

The Drug Control Centre 
King's College London 
Franklin-Wilkins Building 
150 Stamford Street 
London SE1 9NH 
Map 

Tel: 020 7848 4848 
Fax: 020 7848 4980

For general enquiries, please contact Sarah Wilson, the centre's Administrator: sarah.wilson@kcl.ac.uk

We encourage feedback regarding our service. Please email dcc@kcl.ac.uk and state whether you require a reply. Your comments will be copied to the Director.

Our history

The Drug Control and Teaching Centre at King’s College London was established in 1978, in association with the UK Sports Council. It was the first ever human sports drug-testing laboratory outside of an Olympic Games, but the need for such a Centre was clear given the prevalence in the use of performance enhancing drugs such as steroids in sports during this era. The Centre was utilised heavily by UK organisations in the run up to the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow and went on to become a global success.

Today the DCC at King's is one of the world's foremost WADA accredited laboratories, with vast experience in successfully delivering analysis for Major Games. The Centre is currently contracted to undertake the drug testing of athletes under the UK Anti-Doping Testing Programme. In addition, the DCC has played an active part in teaching within King’s, with staff being integral to the establishment of MSc courses in Analytical Toxicology and Analytical Science for Industry. These courses have been a great success and staff continue to contribute significantly to these courses in addition to other programmes such as the MSc in Forensic Science.

The DCC in now part of King’s Forensics, a teaching and research unit within the Faculty of Life Science and Medicine which aims to be at the forefront in the development of end user focused research and teaching in forensic science.

Experience

Many of the staff within the DCC have worked for many years in the field of anti-doping and have significant experience in Major Games. While being responsible for anti-doping at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is a highlight, the DCC was also responsible for the analysis of samples during the 2002 and 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2006 Asian Games.

Additionally staff, have travelled to and supported many of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games in the last thirty five years such as the events held in Sydney, Athens and Turin. Furthermore, staff were able to utilise their experience from 2012 to support the WADA accredited laboratory in Rio in their preparations for the Olympic Games in 2016. In addition to travelling to Rio in the build-up to the Games, many of the staff were seconded to the Rio laboratory during the event to assist with the operation of the facility during this period.

Key achievements

The Drug Control Centre benefits from being part of a multi-disciplinary university with strong links with physicians at the NHS Foundation Trust hospitals associated with King’s Health Partners. As such the DCC has contributed significantly across many areas of research with many publications.

The Centre has considerable experience in successfully delivering anti-doping analysis for major Games and assisting other centres.

The Centre can claim a number of significant firsts in the development of new tests for prohibited substances:

  • First tests for amphetamines
  • First tests for anabolic steroids
  • First controls for hCG
  • First controls for dihydrotestosterone
  • First pilot study to propose possible markers to detect growth hormone administration by sports competitors
  • First WADA/IOC accredited laboratory to gain ISO Guide 25 (predecessor of ISO 17025) accreditation for its sports work 

London Olympics 2012 and its legacy

The Drug Control Centre ran an independent anti-doping facility for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, operating from a satellite laboratory accredited by the WADA. The laboratory was the result of a partnership between GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and King’s, and was based at one of GSK’s UK research and development sites. Led by Professor David Cowan, Director of the Drug Control Centre thousands of samples were analysed throughout the Games with the laboratory in operation 24 hours a day.

The scale of the laboratory operation required a large increase in the analytical capacity. Therefore experts from around the world travelled to the facility to offer the benefit of their expertise. Furthermore, around 100 temporary analysts were trained to work for the duration of the Games, many of whom were students who were able gain valuable lab experience.


Using its experiences of London 2012 the DCC was able to assist in preparation for Rio 2016, working closely with King’s partner Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and its Laboratório Brasileiro de Controle de Dopagem (LBCD) to share knowledge and help ensure that the testing at the summer’s Games was a success. This collaboration was also a success for all concerned with staff from both organizations able to spend time in each others’ laboratory, facilitating further collaboration, knowledge exchange and friendship. For further information please see this interview with Professor Francisco Radler de Aquino Neto, Head of the LBCD. 

King’s Forensics and the Wada 2016 investigation

In July 2016 an investigation instigated by WADA, and led by an Independent person Richard McLaren, into allegations of doping in Russia was published, with a follow up report released in December that year. The report was wide ranging and covered in detail methodologies that had been used to facilitate the use of banned substances by athletes without them giving a positive anti-doping test.

The evidence used to underpin the report was wide ranging, including witness interviews, review of documentation, cyber analysis and the laboratory analysis of suspect samples, which was conducted within the DCC in collaboration with its King’s Forensics colleagues from DNA at King’s.

A range of analysis on selected samples was conducted including steroid profiling, creatinine concentrations, salt content and DNA. The evidence with respect to DNA analysis and salt content proved to be particularly important to the investigation.

In several cases, the DNA profile generated from the urine sample did not match the profile of the athlete who was recorded as providing the sample, with some urine from female athletes also generating a male DNA profile.

It was also noted that 6 samples contained sodium concentrations which significantly exceeded the levels produced by the human body. This was significant as whistleblowers claimed during interview that salt was added to some urine samples in order to make the specific gravity of the “clean” urine match the “dirty” urine which it was replacing.

 Chart displaying urinary sodium concentration in samplesImage taken from the McLaren Report part 2

Accreditation

The Drug Control Centre has received international accreditation from WADA.

It is also accredited by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) as a testing laboratory, in accordance with ISO 17025.

The Centre was accredited to the ISO Guide 25 quality standard (the predecessor to ISO 17025) in February 1997. It was the first International Olympic Committee/WADA accredited laboratory to achieve this distinction.

Services and facilities

The Drug Control Centre at King's College London offers a range of analytical services to sports bodies worldwide. Samples collected outside the UK are welcomed, subject to compliance with WADA requirements. Samples collected within the UK are normally routed via UK Anti-Doping.

The Centre specialises in the analysis of anabolic steroids for forensic purposes.

In addition to its analytical work, the Centre provides expert evidence for disciplinary and employment tribunals.

Please contact us to discuss your requirements.

Prohibited substances in sport

The testing of sports competitors for prohibited substances is a challenging area of forensic science.

A huge number of prohibited substances need to be detected, and they are often found at very low concentrations. Nevertheless, unequivocal identification is essential since laboratory findings may be the subject of prolonged and intense legal scrutiny.

In many cases, the substance taken is detectable unchanged in urine or blood; in other cases, a metabolite or marker substance must be identified. Furthermore, although the mere presence of some banned substances which are foreign to the body constitutes an offence under the rules, some substances, such as testosterone, are also naturally produced in the body. It is particularly difficult to provide evidence of administration in these cases.

The latest issues faced by WADA-accredited laboratories include testosterone, EPO, GH administration and blood doping. Future challenges are likely to include genetic manipulation.

The current list of prohibited substances is published on the World Anti-Doping Agency's website and updated annually.

Analysis of samples

Testing takes place in one of three settings:

  • competition testing (at an event)
  • out-of-competition testing (at squad sessions)
  • out-of-competition testing of individuals (at home or training venue)

All three methods of testing follow the same basic sample collection procedures, use the same sampling equipment and follow the same standards for testing, as set out in the World Anti-Doping Code.

The centre receives anonymous pairs of urine samples (‘A’ and ‘B’) from the competitors. The ‘B’ samples are stored safely while the ‘A’ samples are subjected to various levels and types of test.

If any abnormalities are noted, skilled scientific evaluation is used to interpret the resulting data. Between one and two per cent of the samples received by the centre result in an adverse finding, and in these cases the ‘B’ sample is made available to confirm or refute the finding in the ‘A’ sample. The athlete concerned has the right to be present during the testing of the B sample if they wish.

The Centre maintains a chain of custody for all the samples it analyses. This shows where a sample is stored at any time and records which members of staff have had access to it, when and why. This is an essential measure to prevent any tampering with samples.

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