Road to Athens: Olympics enlists R.Ph. for drug testing

August 9, 2004

Illinois pharmacist James Pohlman, Pharm.D., is headed to Athens in August to serve as the only American doping control officer during the Olympic Games.

 

BREAKING NEWS... In Depth

Road to Athens: Olympics enlists R.Ph. for drug testing

An Illinois pharmacist is packing his bags for a trip to the Olympic Games in Athens—not as a competitor, but as a doping control official to help make sure the athletic performances are not chemically enhanced with banned substances.

James J. Pohlman, Pharm.D., of Belvidere, Ill., was the only American selected by the Athens Organizing Committee to serve as a technical and doping control official for the doping control sector at the Summer Games. Joining an international team of 30 core individuals in the doping control sector, he has been assigned to the high-profile swimming events at the Olympic Aquatics Center from opening day, Aug. 13, through the 21st. The XXVIII Olympiad opens on Aug. 13 and runs until the Olympic torch is extinguished on Aug. 29.

A former athlete of self-described average ability, Pohlman has been a doping control officer with the U.S. Anti- Doping Agency (USADA) for a number of years. Throughout this year, and especially in the run-up to the Olympics, he has been involved with out-of-competition and event drug testing, including several U.S. Olympic Trials around the country.

"I think everyone has an accelerated interest in the Olympics when they come up," said Pohlman, whose professional background includes pharmacy management and clinical pharmacy directorship. "All of us want to see our own athletes excel, but I think it's important that you have a fair and equal playing field among the athletes. The high priority given to cleaning up banned substances in sports puts our role right in the forefront of those efforts."

Pohlman, who is board certified in pharmacotherapy, geriatrics, and disease management, as well as being a certified diabetes educator, declined to reveal precisely how drug testing is conducted. "Much of what we do is kept strictly confidential," he explained. "I can tell you that we'll be testing the athletes given certain selection criteria that have been set up for each sport."

Pohlman's name and credentials had been submitted to the Athens committee, but it wasn't until the middle of June that he was notified he would be flying in August for his first trip to Greece. He will be staying in housing set up for international medical officials just outside the Olympic Village.

These days, the specter of terrorism hangs over any high-profile event, but Pohlman said he's not too concerned about safety inside the Olympics complex. "The security will be as tight or tighter than it was in Salt Lake City for the Winter Games," he said. "We have been given a warning about terrorism, and I will certainly have a heightened sense of alertness, especially being in a foreign country. I will probably get a good eye and neck workout while I'm there."

The downside of his Athens adventure is that Pohlman will miss celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his pharmacist wife, Holly, who has worked for Walgreen Co. for nearly 30 years. Since she's been poring over cruise brochures, he suspects there's going to be another trip in his near future.

Sharing her husband's excitement about his upcoming Athens assignment even though she won't be making the trip, Holly added, "His knowledge and technical expertise are just outstanding." The Pohlman's 10-year-old son, Robert, is also looking forward to Dad's big adventure, but for another reason. "We have always had a deal that for every two days I'm gone, he gets a present," Pohlman explained. "It looks like this one will require another suitcase."

Anyone interested in the banned substances and practices Pohlman and his fellow doping control officers will be trying to ferret out can check out the list at www.usantidoping.org/prohibited_sub/guide.asp.

Carol Ukens

 



Carol Ukens. Road to Athens: Olympics enlists R.Ph. for drug testing.

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Aug. 9, 2004;148:8.