Most sports stars know that injecting steroids to boost performance is plain stupid. But, some do it anyway, because the potential gains, they reason, outweigh the risks to health and the chances of being stripped of glory are much smaller than their chances of winning the medal without them.
Not all steroids are purely about enhancement. Another group of steroids, known as corticosteroids, are used to reduce inflammation and pain following injury. Alarmingly high doses are often used to speed up the recovery process but with potentially serious side effects on the tissues into which they are injected. As such corticosteroids injections are also banned in sports.
However, there is a drug produect available to errant sports people that can stimulate the body’s own production of corticosteroids, it’s a protein known by the tradename of Synacthen. It was essentially undetectable as only tiny quantities are needed to cause the desired stimulation and such small concentrations are easily lost in the background noise of other more abundant proteins in a blood sample.
Now, researchers writing in the journal Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry have developed an analytical separation and detection technique, based on chromatography and mass spec, that can pin down this elusive drug and render the cheats visible even if the compound is present only in incredibly low concentrations in a blood sample; even at 10,000,000 times lower concentration than other proteins in the blood plasma.
“If the drug testing authorities adopt this new test it will close a gap in the current drug testing system, and mean that athletes will no longer be able to get away with this form of cheating,” says lead author Mario Thevis, who works in the Center for Preventive Doping Research – Institute of Biochemistry, at the German Sport University Cologne in Germany.
Looks like a few well known sports celebs will have to start using RICE for their injuries again…