London, May 29 : Earlier hair-sampling technique was used to get hold of criminals, rapists or identifying unfit parents in custody battles, but now this method will also be used to track down drug cheats in sport.
British sports chiefs will now get a new method in hand, called liquid chromatography, offered by judicial system scientists, to test for anabolic steroids, enabling accurate systematic identification of doping offenders.
The new method using hair strands will do away with urine testing, which only detects illegal substances between two and five days after they have been ingested. In this technique, hair samples tell about a "telltale history" of a person's consumption patterns for up to a year, depending on the length of their hair.
"Athletes taking drugs will use them in training and can simply stop a few days before a urine test. If you want a longer window to see what drugs were used, the best demonstration is hair," Times Online quoted Pascal Kintz, president of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists, who analyses blood, urine and hair samples at a laboratory in Strasbourg, as saying.
The method works on the phenomenon that on average, human hair grows by 1cm a month, thus even cheats with a "number one" crop (3mm) cannot dodge detection, only if they put a stop on their drugs intake ten days before providing a sample.
In fact, it is also possible to carry out this test on body hair, thus athletes with bald or wet-shaved heads may also not evade the light of suspicion.
Usually, the method is used in biochemistry and its is also rumoured that Britney Spears, the American pop singer, shaved her head to save herself from such a drugs test ordered by a judge during a custody battle with her former husband.
The test is in Britain is being offered by a company called Trimega, based at the Old Bailey and works mainly with solicitors and social workers. The test only requires a tuft of hair about the diameter of a pencil in length and one only needs a sample 11/2in in length to provide a 90-day history.
"Hair testing is the gold standard for cases where children are at risk, so why can't we use the same technique to establish whether people should be allowed to participate in sport?" said Avi Lasarow, the managing director of Trimega.