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Drug Testing Ahead of Schedule at World Athletics Championships

Officials at the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki say they are ahead of schedule in their effort to test a large number of athletes for performance enhancing drugs. The testing seems to have had a positive impact.

The world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), says 529 anti-doping tests had been conducted at the championships through Tuesday. The wide-ranging program has included tests both in and out of competition.

Already, the IAAF has administered a record number of tests. At the last world championships in Paris two years ago, 405 anti-doping tests were conducted.

Nick Davies of the IAAF told VOA sports about the screening process.

"In particular what they are looking for is use of EPO [erythropoietin], blood transfusions, but other things, growth hormones as well, but mainly manipulation of the blood," he said. "And if there is anything suspicious, then that same athlete is requested to do a urine test which will cover the full range of substances."

Davies says any positive drug results will be known quickly.

"We are working hand-in-hand the Finnish [anti-doping] agency," he added. "There is a laboratory here in Helsinki. And most results will be known, if they are positive, within 24 hours to 48 hours."

The IAAF has also for the first time set up an information kiosk in the athletes' village to begin an education process about banned performance enhancing drugs. Davies says the effort is especially aimed at younger athletes.

"We are talking to athletes, distributing information, trying to show them things they may not know, the prohibited list, what they can do, what they can not do, what are the normal procedures for anti-doping. And that has gone down really well," he said.

The IAAF now says it will carry out about 900 anti-doping tests by the end of the championships on Sunday, or half of all the athletes competing in Helsinki. The fact that competitors knew in advance about the intense drug testing may have helped the IAAF meet its goal of a drug-free competition, at least for now. No positive tests have surfaced during the first five days of the nine-day championships.