The Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL), located at the University of Utah, has joined an elite group of laboratories worldwide accredited to test Olympic, Paralympic, and other amateur and professional athletes for performance-enhancing and other prohibited drugs.
SMRTL received accreditation November 1, 2006 from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), making it one of two laboratories in the United States qualified to perform this complex and exacting analytical science. The other facility is at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). SMRTL was co-founded by the National Football League (NFL) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), with significant financial and operational support from the University of Utah and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
The University of Utah was selected in December 2003 as the site for the development of the laboratory. Shortly thereafter, the United States Olympic Committee provided a $500,000 start-up grant to help create the lab.
The formal accreditation process is lengthy and thorough. It involved on-site inspections, compliance with technical requirements, and the successful analysis of samples that contained drugs and metabolites to determine the competency of the laboratory.
“There are only 34 WADA-accredited labs in the world,” said Dennis J. Crouch, SMRTL laboratory director and University of Utah research associate professor in the College of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. “It is an honor for us to be among the ranks of such an elite group and to be playing a role in ensuring fair competition as well as protecting the health of athletes.
The testing of U.S. Olympic, Paralympic, NFL and other athletes will now be distributed between SMRTL and UCLA, adding flexibility and capacity to the country’s anti-doping efforts.
“Earning accreditation as a World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory is a rigorous and exacting process,” said U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Senior Managing Director Dr. Larry D. Bowers. “We congratulate Dennis Crouch, Doug Rollins and the staff at the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City for achieving the level of excellence required to merit this distinction. It is a great benefit to USADA to have the scientific expertise of two accredited laboratories at UCLA and the University of Utah.”
The NFL began using SMRTL in 2005 to screen players for performance-enhancing drugs. The NFL does not require WADA accreditation but demands equivalent expertise by the laboratories it uses in support of its drug control and prevention programs.
“The establishment of this laboratory is a major step forward in the NFL’s ability to monitor and detect the use of performance-enhancing drugs in its athletes,” said Dr. Bryan Finkle, forensic toxicologist to the NFL’s programs and President and Chairman of the Board of the new laboratory. “It enhances the commitment the league has made to address drug misuse and provides more opportunity for research critical to understanding the medical and analytical toxicology issues.”
“As we look for ways to intensify our efforts in the fight against doping in sport, having greater capacity to reliably analyze tests and conduct research is critical,” said U.S. Olympic Committee Director of Sports Medicine Ed Ryan. “We are proud to have contributed to the creation of this lab and believe that it will be an important resource in preserving the health and well-being of athletes and the integrity of sport.”
Drug detection is only part of SMRTL’s mission. The lab also will conduct research into substances that might be used in the future. In today’s environment, the use of substances that modify the body’s own biochemistry and mimic natural hormones makes detection a complex challenge. According to Crouch, the new laboratory will serve as an additional deterrent to underground sports medicine laboratories.