Public Release:  New test makes cheating with drugs in sports easier to detect

Research news from Journal of Mass Spectrometry

Wiley

A new mass spectrometry test can help sports anti-drug doping officials to detect whether an athlete has used drugs that boost naturally occurring steroid levels. The test is more sensitive compared to previous alternatives, more capable of revealing specific suspicious chemical in the body, faster to perform, and could be run on standard drug-screening laboratory equipment. The new test is announced in a special issue of the Journal of Mass Spectrometry that concentrates on detecting drugs in sports.

One of the roles of the masculinising hormone testosterone is to increase muscle size and strength. Taking extra testosterone, or taking a chemical that the body can use to create extra testosterone, could therefore enhance an athlete's performance. For this reason taking it is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The exact level of testosterone varies considerably between different people, so simply measuring total testosterone in an athlete's urine can not show whether he or she has deliberately taken extra. There is, however, a second chemical in the body, epitestosterone, which is normally present in approximately equal proportions to testosterone. Comparing the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone can then indicate whether testosterone or a precursor has been taken.

The problem is that it is not always easy to measure these two substances, particularly as they are only present in urine at very low concentrations.

A team of scientists the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory at the University of Utah have developed a test that makes use of liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. This method has incredibly high sensitivity (down to 1 ng/ml) and increases the power with which officials can search for both testosterone and epitestosterone within a sample.

"Our system means that we can determine the testosterone/epitestosterone ratio in a sample with greater confidence, and therefore be in a better position to spot doping violations without falsely accusing innocent athletes," says lead investigator Dr Jonathan Danaceau.

"Not only is the test more sensitive, it is also faster to perform," says colleague Scott Morrison.

"Having this sort of test available makes cheating harder and lets us take one more step towards enabling free and fair competition," says Laboratory Director Dr Matthew Slawson.

This paper is part of a special issue for the Olympic Games from the Journal of Mass Spectrometry which focuses of drug use in sport. The issue is available free of charge online for one month at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/jms. The other articles publishing in this issue are:

  • History of Mass Spectrometry at Olympic Games (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1445)
  • Nutritional supplements cross-contaminated and faked with doping substances (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1452)
  • Hair analysis of anabolic steroids in connection with doping control results from horse samples (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1446)
  • Mass spectrometric determination of Gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) in human urine for doping control purposes by means of LC-ESI-MS/MS (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1438)
  • Liquid chromatographic-mass spectrometric analysis of glucuronide-conjugated anabolic steroid metabolites: method validation and inter-laboratory comparison (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1434)
  • Mass Spectrometry of Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1438)
  • Can glycans unveil the origin of glycoprotein hormones? - human chorionic gonadotropin as an example (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1448)
  • A High-Throughput Multicomponent Screening Method for Diuretics, Masking Agents, Central Nervous System Stimulants and Opiates in Human Urine by UPLC-MS/MS (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1436)
  • The application of carbon isotope ratio mass spectrometry to doping control (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1437)
  • Identification of zinc-alpha-2-glycoprotein binding to clone ae7a5 anti-human epo antibody by means of nano-hplc and high-resolution highmass accuracy esi-ms/ms (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1444)
  • Low LC-MS/MS Detection of Glycopeptides Released from pmol Levels of Recombinant Erythropoietin using Nanoflow HPLC-Chip Electrospray Ionization (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1439)
  • Introduction of HPLC/Orbitrap mass spectrometry as screening method for doping control (DOI: 10.1002/jms.1447)

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