Hormone abuse in sports: the knowns and unknowns
Sports drug testing laboratories are facing multifaceted challenges including the misuse of naturally/endogenously occurring substances, non-approved/discontinued drug candidates, urine manipulation, etc. In order to enable the differentiation of licit drug use and/or the natural variation of hormone concentrations (due to e.g. legal interventions) from doping offences, best-possible analytical performance is required. Therefore, modern doping control analytical assays commonly employ mass spectrometry-based and immunological approaches to detect prohibited substances and methods of doping exploiting the respective advantages.
With the constantly increasing analytical requirements concerning the number of target compounds, the complexity of analytes (e.g. peptides and proteins) as well as the desire to accelerate analyses and obtain information allowing also for retrospective data mining, high resolution/high accuracy mass spectrometry has gained much attention recently. This methodology is successfully complemented and seconded by selected immunoassays targeting in particular peptide hormones such as human growth hormone (hGH) and erythropoietin (EPO). In the course of the presentation, advances and limitations of current methods in sports drug testing will be outlined by means of selected examples demonstrating the complexity of measuring mostly known and partly unknown substances from a limited volume of serum or urine.
Declaration of interest: The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest that could be perceived as prejudicing the impartiality of the research project.
Funding: This research did not receive any specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sector.