New test to unmask doping sportsmen

January 9th, 2009 - 2:34 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 9 (IANS) There’s bad news for athletes who use performance enhancing drugs that are virtually undetectable because they are in the early stages of development.Although Beijing Olympics were remarkably drug free with only six athletes being unmasked during the games, it is being suspected that such drugs were not identifiable with standard tests, because they are being tested on animals.

A new test developed by German researchers will help sports officials stay ahead of dopers by allowing them to screen for some of these emerging drugs, as well as others that have not yet reached the market.

“As soon as these drugs enter human clinical trials, there is a huge potential for them to be misused in sports. This preventive research lets us prepare before these compounds are officially launched,” informed Mario Thevis, director, Centre for Preventive Doping Research (CPDR), German Sport University of Cologne, who led the research.

The test identifies a core chemical structure belonging to a class of compounds called benzothiazepines. These compounds stabilise protein channels that would otherwise “leak” calcium from muscle cells during strenuous exercise.

Calcium is required for muscle contraction, while this leakage weakens contractions and is a causal factor in muscle fatigue.

JTV-519 and S-107, benzothiazepines being developed currently for treatment of cardiac abnormalities, are known to boost endurance in mice. Although their clinical trials are still away, both can be detected using the test.

The researchers believe the simple nature of the compounds means they are easy to make and sell to dopers as endurance boosters on the black market.

The study, published in the new journal, Drug Testing and Analysis, characterises the compounds according to their weight and molecular structure. This gives the researchers a molecular “fingerprint” by which to identify the compounds, said a CPDR release.

Thevis and colleagues have demonstrated that JTV-519 and S-107 can be detected in spiked urine in concentrations as low as 0.1 nanograms per millimetre, using high resolution mass spectrometry.

“We used the common approaches that are employed for detecting anabolic agents. Our work showed that we could identify the right compounds and that we have a sensitive test,” said Thevis.

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