Scientists have developed a new mass spectrometry test which can help sports anti-drug doping officials to detect whether an athlete has used testosterone, says the Journal of Mass Spectrometry.
The test is said to be more sensitive compared to previous tests, more capable of revealing specific suspicious chemical in the body, faster to perform, and could be run on standard drug-screening laboratory equipment.
Testosterone 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,” said lead investigator Dr Jonathan Danaceau.
“Not only is the test more sensitive, it is also faster to perform,” said 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,” said laboratory director Dr Matthew Slawson.
Not everybody is convinced the new T/E test is a major step forward. David Brower of the Trust But Verify website, which carries an enormous amount of scientific information on the T/E testing carried out in the Floyd Landis case, said of the new test:
“[It’s] the bad test made cheaper and less prone to execution error, but leaving the same problems – high/low mode people, the recently noted genetic issues, and general variance. Will WADA re- evaluate the 4:1 limit with this method?”
The paper on the new test 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 from the Wiley website.
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)