WADA sports science illustration ()WADA sports science illustration () © Copyright

Could you be a WADA scientist?

Dr Olivier Rabin is Science Director for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which leads the fight against doping in all sports. As well as testing athletes, WADA is responsible for scientific research, developing the rules and regulations around doping, and educating young athletes about the dangers of doping. After the scandals in cycling, at Sochi and in athletics, there has never been a better time to catch cheats. Your sport needs you!

A love of science

“When you follow a scientific career, you do a doctorate degree and then a post-doctorate.

I’m a big sports fan and competed in athletics and karate when I was at university, so when I saw the job advert for WADA it combined my love of science with my love of sport.

It would be difficult to do the job we are doing without a passion for sport. Sport and the athletes are at the centre of what we are doing.”

Stay ahead of the game

“There are some areas where we are playing catch-up with drug abuse but others where we are ahead of the game. We work with the pharmaceutical industry to develop tests for products that are not even on the market yet and not yet being abused by athletes. But we anticipate they are going to be abused. We have a limited budget and get research grants but can call upon the expertise of some of the best scientists in the world.”

Working with the athletes

“It can be seen as invasive when you want to take a blood or urine sample, especially when you have to provide a urine sample under the observation of a doping control officer. But the athletes understand why we’re doing this and the clean ones are all for it. We have to do it if we want to protect the sport.”

Gathering intelligence

“Some tests are predictable, like testing the winner of a race. Some are entirely random and some are targeted, based on information we have received. If we are suspicious of a particular athlete because of a tip-off, we may target them more in and out of competition. We are always gathering intelligence.”

Doing it for the kids

“My proudest moments are when clean athletes thank us for the work we do. I love sport and I want to believe in sport and think about the human achievement, not the possibility of doping. We do it to preserve the values of sport. 

Kids who want to go into sport should never be told that their only chance to win is to take drugs – that would be a complete failure of the sport system around the world.”

Job spec

Hours

Standard Monday to Friday office hours, officially. But there’s lots of working late involved when a big report’s due.

Salary

A starting salary of around £25,000 for a toxicologist or pharmacologist. Rising to £75,000 depending on PhD and experience.

Location

WADA has offices on five continents in Canada, Japan, South Africa, Uruguay and Switzerland.

Benefits

  • Pride in your work: eradicating doping in sport
  • Travel to international sporting events

Responsibilities

Staying at the forefront of scientific testing methods on a fraction of the budget of multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Skills

  • Knowledge of the science around drugs and drug abuse
  • Analytical mind
  • Communication – able to explain complicated science simply

Qualifications

Biology, toxicology and pharmacology are all a good start.

Illustration: Chris Barker

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