Ahead of the games: Test will catch sports cheats on new endurance drugs

January 8, 2009

Avoiding detection just got harder for drug cheats who try to use a particular range of untested, but potentially enhancing, compounds. In the past, tests have been developed once a drug is known to be in circulation. Now a German research team has developed tests for a class of drugs that they believe could be used in the near future.

On the face of it, the Beijing Olympics were remarkably drug free with only six athletes being caught during the games and three further suspect cases identified after the games closed. Rumours suggest that many athletes were in fact using performance-enhancing drugs that could not be detected using standard tests. One possibility is that some athletes were using compounds that have not yet been tested in humans, but have shown performance enhancing properties in animal trials. Because these compounds are in the early stage of development no test has been developed, so their use will go undetected.

A new test, announced in the launch issue of the new journal, Drug Testing and Analysis, will help sports officials stay one step ahead of the game by allowing them to screen for some of these emerging drugs, as well as others in the same class that have not yet reached the market.

The test detects 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 needed for muscle contraction and this "leaking" effect weakens the contractions and is a causal factor in muscle fatigue.

JTV-519 and S-107, benzothiazepines currently in development for the treatment of heart abnormalities, are known to increase endurance in mice. Although they have not yet entered human clinical trials, both can be detected using the test.

"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," says Mario Thevis, Director of the Center for Preventive Doping Research at the German Sport University of Cologne, Germany, who led the research.

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

The study characterises the compounds according to their weight and molecular structure. This gives the researchers a molecular "fingerprint" by which to identify the compounds. Thevis and colleagues show that, using high resolution mass spectrometry, JTV-519 and S-107 can be detected in spiked urine at concentrations as low as 0.1 nanograms per millilitre.

"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," says Thevis.

The next step is to look for the molecules created by the metabolic breakdown of the compounds once they have entered the human body. This will give researchers a wider scope of compounds by which to identify cheats when screening samples. However, the compounds can't be given to humans until they have been approved for clinical trials, so the researchers must focus on bench studies using human microsomes. These are tiny vesicles that mimic cell metabolism and so can be used to predict how the drugs might be broken down.

Source: Wiley

Explore further: Researchers discover a drug for a tropical disease

Related Stories

Researchers discover a drug for a tropical disease

August 30, 2016

Researchers at the University of Georgia are working to find the fastest way possible to treat and cure human African trypanosomiasis, long referred to as sleeping sickness. By working to improve chemical entities already ...

Non-addictive painkiller shows promise in animal trials

August 30, 2016

(HealthDay)—Preliminary research in monkeys suggests that a new medication might be able to provide pain relief similar to opioid drugs such as OxyContin, but without the same potential for addiction or serious side effects.

Team makes Zika drug breakthrough

August 29, 2016

A team of researchers from Florida State University, Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health has found existing drug compounds that can both stop Zika from replicating in the body and from damaging ...

How do antidepressants trigger fear and anxiety?

August 24, 2016

More than 100 million people worldwide take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac and Zoloft, to treat depression, anxiety and related conditions, but these drugs have a common and mysterious side ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.