Leveling the Playing Field
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A UCLA laboratory takes on the latest designer
By Nancy Sokoler Steiner '85
Illustration by Celia Johnson
Don Catlin is in a race. Part marathon, part sprint,
the contest pits the 65-year-old Catlin against world-class Olympians,
champion cyclists and professional football players. The endeavor
requires endurance, persistence and discipline.
Catlin isn't out to break records or earn medals. Rather, the Department
of Molecular & Medical Pharmacology professor and his team at
the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory seek to thwart those who
create or use illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Catlin started the lab in 1982 at the request of the Los Angeles
Olympic Organizing Committee. The only drug-testing facility in
the United States accredited by the International Olympic Committee
(IOC), the UCLA lab analyzed urine samples for the three Olympic
Games that have been held in the United States since 1984 (Los Angeles
in '84, Atlanta in '96 and Salt Lake City in '02). Although the
lab will not be testing for this summer's Olympic Games in Athens,
Greece, Catlin will provide consultation and support through his
role on the IOC's Medical Commission. In addition to servicing the
IOC, the lab also does testing for the United States Anti-Doping
Agency (USADA), the National Football League (NFL), the National
Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Department of Defense.
Altogether, it tests about 30,000 samples annually.
"The Olympic Analytical Laboratory is the only lab that we use
for NCAA work — it's the best sports drug-testing laboratory in
the United States," says Frank Uryasz, founder and president of
the National Center for Drug Free Sport, Inc., which administers
the NCAA's drug-testing program. "When it comes to deterring drug
use in sports in the United States, the Olympic Analytical Laboratory
is a national treasure. UCLA has committed its facilities and its
good scientists to this cause for over 20 years, and sports organizations
are forever grateful for that contribution."