New study examines the validity of epo testing

Jun 26, 2008

Recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEpo) is a genetically engineered hormone sometimes misused by high-performance athletes such as cyclists and marathon runners to boost their endurance. The potential misuse of the drug is detected in urine collected from athletes. Since the test was introduced in 2000, 33 labs around the world have been accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to administer the procedure.

During the last few years, the testing procedure has been criticized by some. Accordingly, a team of researchers investigated the quality of the test results at two WADA labs. They found that the detection power of the test at the two labs was poor.

The Study

The study is entitled, "Testing for Recombinant Human Erythropoietin in Urine: Problems Associated with Current Anti-Doping Testing," and was conducted by Carsten Lundby, Niels J. Achman-Andersen, Jonas J. Thomsen, Anne M. Norgaard and Paul Robach, all of the Copenhagen Muscle Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark. The findings appear in the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society.

The researchers conducted the study using eight male volunteers (non-athletes). Following baseline measurements, the volunteers were injected every second day for 14 days with 5,000 IU rHuEpo (the "boosting period"). For the next two weeks, the volunteers received one injection every seven days (the "maintenance" period). Blood samples were drawn before the injections and on eight additional occasions. Urine samples were collected before the blood draws and on six additional days. Exercise tests using a bicycle ergometer were conducted prior to injection and on three other occasions.

Findings and Implications

The rHuEpo administration regimen was effective in increasing the oxygen carrying capacity of all the volunteer subjects, and at the same time, their performance increased. Additionally:


-- Using the samples collected during the boosting phase, Lab A concluded that all the samples were positive for rHuEpo. Lab B determined that none of the samples, despite being identical to Lab A's samples, were positive.

-- For samples collected during the maintenance period, Lab A determined that six of l6 samples were positive and two samples were suspicious. By contrast, Lab B found no positive samples.

-- For samples collected during the post-treatment phase, Lab A concluded that two of 24 samples were positive and three were suspicious. Lab B determined that all 24 samples were negative.

The implication– if applied to athletes – is that there is only a small "risk" of being tested positive for rHuEpo doping while athletic performance is greatly enhanced. If the samples are analyzed by Lab B, the risk of doping detection is non-existent. It should be noted that in this study, the "maintenance" period was only two weeks – but according to the authors, this can be sustained for an entire sporting season.

Results in Perspective

The results demonstrate that the detection power of the WADA test is poor and that agreement in analytical results from two WADA-accredited laboratories is very poor. Given these and other findings, the researchers conclude that improvements in the current rHuEpo test are necessary, or that alternative tests should be developed. This however, seems unlikely to occur before major events scheduled for 2008 like the Tour de France or the Olympic Games in Beijing.


Source: American Physiological Society

Explore further: Continued reliance on Windows XP in physician practices may threaten data security

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tiny biomolecular tweezers studying force effect of cells

Apr 03, 2014

A new type of biomolecular tweezers could help researchers study how mechanical forces affect the biochemical activity of cells and proteins. The devices—too small to see without a microscope—use opposing ...

A pest management toolbox to reduce pesticide use

Apr 02, 2014

Integrated pest management gains momentum due to European regulations on pesticides reduction. But the challenges are to integrate all alternative methods and to get farmers involved.

Brighter future for bacteria detection

Mar 20, 2014

Ever wonder why fruits and vegetables sometimes hit the shelves contaminated by pathogenic bacteria such as listeria, E. coli, and salmonella?

Recommended for you

What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

Apr 16, 2014

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But how ...

New technology that is revealing the science of chewing

Apr 15, 2014

CSIRO's 3D mastication modelling, demonstrated for the first time in Melbourne today, is starting to provide researchers with new understanding of how to reduce salt, sugar and fat in food products, as well ...

After skin cancer, removable model replaces real ear

Apr 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—During his 10-year struggle with basal cell carcinoma, Henry Fiorentini emerged minus his right ear, and minus the hearing that goes with it. The good news: Today, the 56-year-old IT programmer ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...