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Erith business takes moment in the spotlight

PUBLISHED: 11:27 06 September 2012

Joanne Cooper with blood testing kit

Joanne Cooper with blood testing kit

Archant

It is not just the athletes, torchbearers and volunteers who had their 15 minutes of fame during the Olympics and an Erith business has been getting in on the act

VersapakVersapak

Versapak, which has its head office in Veridion Way, produces equipment to transfer drug tests securely from one location to another without them being tampered with.

Managing director Leon Edwards was approached by Sky News to appear on Adam Boulton’s programme to give his insight into the furore surrounding teenage Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen when it was alleged she was using performance-enhancing drugs.

The 38-year-old said: “We’ve been very active in drug testing and have been talking about ways to move the process forward, which has made us more visible.

“It wasn’t something I’d done before and certainly wasn’t something I asked to do but it was a great experience. Most of all it was great for our exposure and credibility.”

Director Julia Smallbone with managing director Leon EdwardsDirector Julia Smallbone with managing director Leon Edwards

The subject of drug testing has elevated Versapak to the national stage and the company will play a significant part in the future of one of the most divisive issues in sport.

Drugs testing in sport has been under scrutiny in the past few weeks following the announcement that seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will not challenge charges that the United States Anti-Doping Agency brought against him.

This has raised the issue of how easy it is for cheating athletes to avoid detection, which is central to the role Versapak plays.

Mr Edwards said: “There’s more testing than there used to be and it’s much harder to slip through the net. Fewer people should be able to get away with it.

“I’ve been following the Lance Armstrong case specifically and it is a strange one.

“We may never know if anything untoward has taken place but we supply our products to the Tour de France and there’s no way tampering could have taken place. We pride ourselves in our security.”

The business also has factories in Germany and Romania but home is very much in Erith.

There are employees who have been there since Versapak began. The company plans to add three or four new members of staff, recruiting locally.

As well as Versapak’s involvement in drug testing it also transfers medical equipment, money and secure documents.

It produces a variety of seals and bags which prevent third parties from tampering with what is inside packages and ensuring they are transported safely.

The company is almost 40 years old and has been based in Erith for 21 years, with Mr Edwards saying most of the 20 employees live within ten miles of the site.

One of them is Nichola Carroll, who has worked for Versapak for 15 years and lives in Upper Belvedere.

The 44-year-old said: “The business was founded by two brothers and it has a real family feel to it.

“I’ve had half a dozen different roles since I’ve been here and there are lots of opportunities to move and develop.”

Mr Edwards added: “Nichola is a prime example of the opportunities Versapak offers and why it is such a key business for the local community.”

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