GlaxoSmithKline sponsors London Olympics — with anti-doping lab

    Olympic officials in London are mounting a full court press against performance-enhancing drugs. A key part of that push is state-of-the-art testing facilities.

    That’s where GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) — the U.K.-based drug company with a major presence in the Philadelphia area — comes in.

    The company spent more than $30 million to become a Tier 3 sponsor of the London games.

    But instead of handing over cash, the company established a massive drug-testing facility north of London.

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    “In some ways, it probably would’ve been simpler to hand over a check, if I’m honest,” says Kerry O’Callaghan, GSK’s head of global brand communications. “But there’s been an awful lot of work, an awful lot of man-hours put in to getting this lab to be a really state-of-the-art facility.”

    The company is providing the anti-doping services, machinery and computer systems that will run the 24/7 operation. It’s equipped to handle 400 blood and urine samples a day.

    But O’Callaghan stresses that the 150 scientists doing the testing are not affiliated with GSK.

    “There’s very clear water between the services that we have provided to be able to make it happen and the scientists that are actually in the lab during the games,” says O’Callaghan.

    Still, she says the unique partnership will be a key part of the International Olympic Committee’s biggest-ever anti-doping effort.

    “We’re looking for about 240 prohibited substances in each of those samples,” O’Callaghan says. “Collectively, that’s why we’re so confident that if anybody does choose to cheat, then we’ll catch them.”

    Instead of lab techs, GSK is sending 100 employees to watch the games live.

    That includes six “golden ticket winners” from the Philadelphia area. GSK employs about 5,000 in the region.

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