New Technique can prove effective for spotting use of banned substancesAccording to a research published today in the Journal Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, a new technique can offer a new dimensional approach in spotting use of banned substances by athletes.

This technique is expected to help doping staff and drug officials to distinguish between the presence of synthetically manufactured and naturally occurring human steroids in the body. It is interesting to note here that though naturally occurring and synthetic steroids are somehow similar in nature, there seems to be a difference in the ratio of ‘heavy’ carbon to ‘light’ carbon they contain.

From News-Medical.Net:

The new approach, developed by scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Nottingham, allows easy analysis of the carbon ratio. It uses a catalytic reaction to strip steroids of their more aggressive parts whilst leaving the carbon ‘skeleton’ intact. This technique, called hydropyrolysis, is commonly used to aid oil exploration by freeing small fragments of organic matter from petroleum rock sources.

Dr Mark Sephton, from Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering and lead author of the research, explained: “The type of carbon in the body’s molecules reflects the carbon ingested as part of an athlete’s diet, and if you can work out the carbon ratio in the molecules you can determine the source of the carbon.

“Drug cheats should beware. The carbon-based secrets of steroids are now apparent to the analyst. Thanks to our technique, in the future it will be much more difficult to escape detection when using performance-enhancing steroids“, he added.

The next step of researchers is to extend the present findings onto pure samples of steroid molecules. It is believed that the new technique will help in curbing use of steroids in sports to enhance the image of sports, which has been tarnished by steroid-taking athletes and other sportsmen in the last few years.