Cornell professor gets anti-doping grant to detect steroid use in athletes

05-Jun-2009 - USA

J. Thomas Brenna, Cornell professor of nutritional sciences, has a new task: to find better ways to detect steroids in urine to improve drug testing of athletes for performance-enhancing substances.

The Partnership for Clean Competition, a research collaborative founded last year by the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, gave Brenna its first research grant - $500,000 for one year - to develop and implement cutting-edge methods to detect previously uncharacterized or unknown designer steroids in urine.

Brenna will seek to define the whole steroid profile in urine by using gas chromatography and time-of-flight mass spectrometry to detect synthetic anabolic steroids, including designer steroids.

"Doping in sports, especially in track and field, international cycling and U.S. Major League Baseball, has become a much more noticeable and highly publicized problem in recent years, with steroid abuse leading the way," says Brenna, noting that increasingly organizations are testing athletes' urine for drugs. "One of the major obstacles to catching today's doping athlete is that only known doping substances can be targeted for routine testing, putting the anti-doping laboratory a step behind innovative dopers."

Another problem, he says, is that the complexity of the natural matrix from which steroids are sampled, most commonly urine, makes minor components difficult or impossible to detect.

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