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It's coming: a breathalyzer for anabolic steroids

Doping hunters from the German Sport University Cologne are developing a completely new type of doping test. The new test does not require sweat, blood, urine, hair or mouth swabs, but will enable doping hunters to detect the use of anabolic steroids and other banned substances by analyzing the breath of athletes. O my.

The German biochemist and doping hunter Mario Thevis published a human study in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, which delivered proof of principle and showed that the detection of banned substances by analyzing breath is possible. In the publication Thevis tells, among other things, that he collected a group of test subjects who used doping substances, and then analyzed their breath with LC/MS/MS.

The subjects were "either [...] patients using the drugs in question in regular therapeutic settings or [...] individuals participating in elimination studies investigating the same substance classified as doping agents." Thevis needed the subjects to exhale 20 liters or air for his measurements. When a adult exhales, he produces about half a liter or air.

Thevis and his colleagues were able to detect meldonium, DMAA, oral-turinabol and pseudoephedrine in the breath of their subjects.

It's coming: a breathalyzer for anabolic steroids

It's coming: a breathalyzer for anabolic steroids

"The results of this pilot study and literature data from the field of therapeutic drug monitoring and forensic analyses indicate that drugs of rather different physico-chemical nature are traceable in exhaled breath", the Germans summarize.

"Consequently, a considerable number of compounds relevant for doping controls could be monitored via exhaled breath sampling in potential future sports drug testing programs that could utilize the non-invasive sample collection approach of exhaled breath."

"To date, information on analyteconcentrations in exhaled breath, detection times, etc., are still limited to a small number of relevant compounds. Hence, follow-up studies are required to assess the full potential of exhaled breath as an alternative matrix in doping controls, and a considerable expansion of the spectrum of compounds that can be monitored from exhaled breath is needed."

"This necessitates utmost analytical sensitivity considering the minute amounts of target analytes expected to be eliminated via an athletes' breath."

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2017 Aug 15;31(15):1290-6.

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