China launched its first anti-doping agency and a state-of-the-art laboratory yesterday in the heart of the Olympic site in a bid to ensure a drug-free Summer Games next year.
China is keen to avoid an embarrassing doping scandal at the Olympics and the agency has the backing of the highest levels of the government, officials said at the opening ceremony.
The China Anti-Doping Agency will act as a testing site during the games and will coordinate a current campaign against illegal factories that make steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
"The issue of doping is one of the biggest challenges faced by ... the international Olympic movement," the center's director Du Lijun said.
Doping has spread from professional athletes to junior amateur players, he said, and remains a problem in China despite efforts to combat it.
The anti-doping agency will be staffed by 60 people, with more experts coming from abroad next year to take the number to more than 100. It is located next to the central cluster of Olympic venues.
"By the establishment of the China Anti-Doping Agency, better coordination between different sport organizations and departments will be built," Du said.
Duan Sijie, vice minister of State Sport General Administration of China, said China had made advances in recent years to fight doping.
"The positive rate in doping tests for Chinese athletes is much lower than the international figure on average," Duan said. "The establishment of China's Anti-Doping Agency expresses the Chinese government's firm determination to fight against doping."
Chinese officials aim to increase the number of drug tests at the Beijing games to 4,500, higher than the 2,800 tests at the Sydney Games in 2000 and the 3,700 tests in Athens four years ago.