Catch Us If You Can

Catch Us If You Can

As Olympic competition continues in Tokyo this week, all eyes will be on two very different types of contest.

The first is one we’ve seen many times before, as 10,000 women and men from 206 nations test their skills across a total of 33 sports.

The second is one that’s sadly becoming more familiar with each passing year, as anti-doping organisations attempt to thwart the athletes who’ve taken a short-cut to glory with performance-enhancing drugs. In 1988 Ben Johnson set a world record in the men’s Olympic 100 metre final, only to have it wiped away within 48 hours when his steroid abuse was discovered. Since then, we’ve seen well over 1,000 doping violations punished with no end in sight.

Part of the problem is the ingenuity and productivity of the pharmaceutical industry. Drugs that are developed to treat illness and enhance quality of life can often be used for more sinister ends. Darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp) was developed over 20 years ago to treat anaemia in people with chronic renal failure. In a nutshell, it sends a message from the kidneys to the bone marrow to increase production of red blood cells. For anaemic patients, this can be the difference between life and death. For elite athletes it can boost the amount of oxygen the blood carries to the muscles and be the difference between first and last. Almost from the moment the drug was granted FDA approval, it was in widespread use among athletes. When anti-doping regulators found effective tests to identify cheating, they kept quiet about it for as long as possible. Once a test becomes public knowledge, athletes and their coaches start looking for ways to circumvent it.

Not all athletes, of course. For every Ben Johnson, there’s a Usain Bolt who ran and won clean. For every Justin Gatlin, who controversially won a world title after serving two drug bans, there’s a Michael Johnson who dominated his events for a decade on nothing but talent and hard work. Over the next two weeks we’ll see plenty of women and men who’ve earned their places on the podium and nothing should detract from their moment of glory. And just because life-saving drugs can be misused, that mustn’t detract from the work that goes into their development and the invaluable results they achieve.

As challenging as lockdown and social distancing has been for so many us over the past year and a half, the speed of research and development, clinical trials and vaccination rollout for Coronavirus has helped us move back towards normality. When we talk to clients in the pharmaceutical sector they are quick to praise not only the people but also the processes that have made that swift response possible. One word that’s repeated time and time again in these conversations is “centralization”.

Pharma clients tell us that in the past, their work was hampered by a complex, fragmented service request and authorization process that delayed decision-making and approval for important projects. They tell us that systems of manual resource allocation didn’t allow them to make the best use of their people’s time and skills. They tell us that having no centralized control over language assets pushed up their costs and compromised their quality standards on critical clinical trial translation projects.

And they tell us that each of those problems has been solved by a specialist partner. Centralizing a service request and authorization process has enabled the sharing of knowledge and led to swifter, more informed decision making. Centralizing resource allocation has given managers the big picture view they need to get the best from their skill pool. And centralizing language assets in a vendor-neutral Translation Management System has given localization managers choice and control in multilingual communication.

Pharma clients tell us that different language service partners have historically given them different prices for the same service because of their need to cover their own costs.  From the point of view of the language service providers – who are experienced, ethical professionals – this is entirely understandable.  But from the point of view of the client, having transparent accuracy around costs and volumes to translate, with all assets centralised, delivers an equal platform for all vendors and serves the needs of the project.

It gives everyone a level playing field and promotes excellence. That’s what we want business to represent, particularly when that business is making the difference between sickness and health. It’s also what we want the Olympics to represent. It’s what we want life to represent. 

Today we salute everyone who plays by the rules and makes a positive difference. Whether they are athletes who compete clean, researchers who work tirelessly to develop new products or language technology providers who give their clients the tools they need for nuanced, cost-effective global communication. We’re all winning. Catch us if you can.