The Man Who Invented Drug Testing

Agilent equipment has been used at major sports events for 40+ years

Agilent equipment has been used at major sports events for 40+ years

This week we salute Manfred Donike, who was born on August 23, 1933.  In 1966, the German biochemist demonstrated that an Agilent (then Hewlett-Packard) gas chromatograph could be used to detect anabolic steroids and other prohibited substances in athletes’ urine samples.

Donike began the first full-scale testing of athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, using eight HP gas chromatographs linked to an HP computer.  His method reduced the screening process from 15 steps to three, and was considered so scientifically accurate that no outside challenges to his findings were allowed.

At the 1983 Pan American Games, Donike’s laboratory disqualified 19 athletes and caused numerous others to withdraw before they were due to be tested.  At the 1988 Summer Olympics, his testimony led to the suspension of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson.  (When Johnson’s defenders claimed that unknown parties had somehow spiked the athlete’s drink, Donike declared, “How can anyone seriously state such nonsense?”)

Donike died of a heart attack on August 21, 1995 at the age of 61.  Ironically, he was en route to the All-African Games to set up a drug testing laboratory.  “His contributions over the past 25 years have been innumerable,” said UCLA’s Dr. Don Caitlin at the time.  “He devised all the chemical methods of identifying prohibited substances.”

Donike was also an athlete, earning 14 national titles in cycling.

In 1997, HP established the Manfred Donike Award to recognize “scientists who exemplify the spirit and scientific leadership of doping control pioneer Manfred Donike, and whose contributions significantly increase fairness in sports competition.”  The award continues to be given annually by Agilent.

Today, Agilent is a leader in gas chromatography, liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.  Ever since the 1972 Olympic Games, the company has been the major supplier of drug-testing equipment for elite sports competitions worldwide, including the World Cup and the Tour de France.  Agilent also provides drug-testing solutions to law enforcement and forensics laboratories around the world.

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Introducing Generation Z

Today’s youth will see a revolution in biological advances

Today’s youth will see a revolution in biological advances

The post-millennials.  The 2Ks.  The iGens.  The Plurals.  The Homeland Generation.  The Silent Generation.

They are known by many names.  But this latest demographic group targeted by advertisers and marketers (born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s) are today’s teenagers.  Raised on the Internet and social media, they have fewer verbal and interpersonal skills.  And they will be Agilent’s next generation of customers and employees.

New York PR firm Sparks & Honey recently posted a thought-provoking profile of Generation Z.  Among its findings and predictions about Gen-Z:

  • They have an 8-second attention span (Millennials have a 12-second attention span)
  • They are unconstrained by traditional gender roles
  • They are racially diverse and mixed
  • They are less physically active and more likely to be obese
  • They are smart, confident, competitive and entrepreneurial
  • They want to have an impact on the environment and the planet

Growing up in the post-Information Age, Gen-Zers are the beneficiaries of the past century of electronics.  “Scientists a hundred years ago could not have imagined what we have today,” says Agilent President and CEO Bill Sullivan.  “We have seen dramatic innovations and changes in electronics technologies: the invention of the transistor, the development of integrated circuits and the rise of wireless communications.”

But Sullivan believes that this young generation will see an even more dramatic revolution: the century of biology.  “I believe that biology will transform the next 100 years of human life even more than electronics transformed the past 100 years,” he said last year to an audience of engineering students at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Agilent today has world-class capabilities in cost-effectively synthesizing very high-quality DNA and RNA.  Using our solutions, scientists may soon be able to isolate the genomic changes that lead to Down syndrome, autism, cancer and other diseases.

“But the century of biology will not be limited to life sciences and diagnostics.  We are on the verge of being able to engineer biology much as we do with electrical devices today.  This has the potential to lead to new materials, new biofuels and even new foods.

“Imagine a world that no longer runs the risk of exhausting its fuels and natural resources.  Imagine a global food supply that ensures adequate nutrition for everyone.  Imagine being able to live longer and healthier, with a higher standard of living and quality of life.”

Generation Z may be in for an amazing ride.  And with a new focus on chemicals and energy, pharmaceuticals, food safety, the environment, diagnostics and research, Agilent hopes to play a major role in making this exciting future possible.

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From the Mailbag…

The Agilent Technologies Blog is distributed through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.  On occasion, I’ll share some of the more interesting comments and emails…

140805 phone

The War of the Telephone: Norbert wrote:

“Nice to read, but for a German like me, there is an essential part missing – the real inventor of the phone JPhilipp Reis. So everything becomes a 3 person controversy.”

(I should note that the long path to the telephone included many contributors, including Charles Bourseul [French] and Antonio Meucci [Italian].)


140724 surgeon 2

James Barry: Jose-Luis wrote:

“One of questions that this article brings is what was Dr. Barry’s gender identity.  It is quite plausible that Dr. Barry choose to live life as man, as he identified as one (i.e. he was a transgender male).  Based on the articles I’ve read, I believe the jury is out.  You may want to expand your article to also touch on LGBT issues.  By stating that ‘Even today, women’… you are implying that Dr. Barry did not identify as male.”

(After 100+ years, this may indeed never be settled, but you make a good point.  I had based my positioning on the Telegraph article, which concluded that Barry impersonated a man mainly to escape poverty and become a doctor.)

140520 helium2Joseph Lockyer and Helium:  Mike wrote:

“By the way, did you know that Agilent makes a mass spec exclusively tuned to mass 4 – He?  Our VS helium mass spec Leak Detector line is used to detect leaks in systems using He as the tracer gas. Our system is so sensitive, it can detect a leak which would take 30+ years to develop a detectable bubble in an water tank.  We also make a small portable He sniffer!”

(I didn’t know.  A couple of links here and here on

140513 smallpoxEdward Jenner and the Smallpox Vaccine: Vincent wrote:

“Jenner has had great PR over the past two and a half centuries, and the eradication of smallpox was perhaps the greatest medical advance in human medicine… but Jenner was not responsible for it or even the initiation of it. In science, as in history, learning the details makes all the difference. [For] the study of the actual contributors of conquering smallpox – of which Jenner is one, be it a very minor one – I can recommend reading Razzell’s ‘The Conquest of Smallpox’ (either 1977 1st ed or the 2003 2nd ed). Another good read is Jennifer Lee Carrell’s ‘Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox’ from 2003.”

(I appreciate the additional background.  My post on Jenner was mainly to mark the May 14 milestone.)

Thank you for the dialogue!  Please know that your likes, shares, retweets, comments and emails are seen and appreciated!


Filed Under: All, Chemical Analysis, Electronic Measurement, Life Sciences

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