How reliable are tests for drug use and doping?

  • 7 Replies
  • 5743 Views

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

*

Richard Brown

  • Guest
How reliable are tests for drug use and doping?
« on: 26/07/2008 15:26:02 »
Richard Brown asked the Naked Scientists:

It seems that in many cases where athletes fail drug tests (for EPO, blood doping etc), they maintain their innocence.

Is the medical science behind the testing as unreliable as we would be led to believe by these athletes?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 04/10/2008 16:02:25 by chris »

*

Offline chris

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 5392
  • The Naked Scientist
    • View Profile
    • The Naked Scientists
How reliable are tests for drug use and doping?
« Reply #1 on: 04/10/2008 16:04:45 »
We discussed this in our programme about the Olympics and sports training in summer 2008:

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts/show/2008.07.13/

Chris
I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception - Groucho Marx

*

Offline DoctorBeaver

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • 12656
  • A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
    • View Profile
How reliable are tests for drug use and doping?
« Reply #2 on: 05/10/2008 14:20:32 »
It's really a case of the tail chasing the body. New techniques are being developed to hide drug use, and the tests then have to catch up.

However, there are some prescription, or over-the-counter, medicines that can indicate illegal drug use where none has taken place (if I remember correctly, there was a certain brand of cough syrup that indicated positive). These aren't as common as they used to be, but it can still occur from time to time.
Fledgling science site at http://www.sciencefile.org/SF/content/view/54/98/ needs members and original articles. If you can help, please join.

*

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 8748
    • View Profile
How reliable are tests for drug use and doping?
« Reply #3 on: 05/10/2008 20:15:23 »
Trust me, modern analytical chemistry can tell cough mixture friom illegal drugs.
If a test for, for example, ephedrine (which is perfectly legal in most jurisdictions, but forbidden under the rules of athletics) shows positive when both the primary and secondary samples are analysed by GC MS then it's pretty much certain that there's ephedrine there.
 
Whether or not it should be banned is another matter. Whether or not the athlete took it knowingly or not is another matter. Another possibility is that the chemical wasn't there when the blood or urine sample was taken but has formed as a result of bacterial degradation of some other precursor.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diane_Modahl

The question is about the testing and it's pretty good. If the athletes really believed they were being cheaterd of a medal they wouldn't mess about with an appeal to the olympic committee or whatever, they would go to court.
However most of the techniques used in testing are extremely well researched and robust, and the courts know this. The only exceptions are where the drug is very new and there has not been time to provide the validation of the analysis.
Please disregard all previous signatures.

*

Offline DoctorBeaver

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • 12656
  • A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
    • View Profile
How reliable are tests for drug use and doping?
« Reply #4 on: 06/10/2008 12:43:52 »
BC - as I said, "...there was a type of cough syrup". That loophole was plugged years ago; maybe I should have made that more obvious.

Ephedrine is cumulative and hangs around in the body for quite some time. Anyone who takes it on a regular basis is asking for trouble as it can cause aneurisms.
« Last Edit: 06/10/2008 12:45:45 by DoctorBeaver »
Fledgling science site at http://www.sciencefile.org/SF/content/view/54/98/ needs members and original articles. If you can help, please join.

*

Offline Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 8748
    • View Profile
How reliable are tests for drug use and doping?
« Reply #5 on: 06/10/2008 19:50:25 »
There are still drugs on sale for treating relatively trivial complaints that are banned for athletes (especially in large amounts). I used ephedrine as an example.
http://www.theathlete.org/banned_drugs/index.html
There's no question about the analytical system working and establishing the presence or absense of the drug. What the drug's presence means is another question.
Please disregard all previous signatures.

*

Offline DoctorBeaver

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • 12656
  • A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
    • View Profile
How reliable are tests for drug use and doping?
« Reply #6 on: 06/10/2008 20:50:08 »
I must admit that I find it amusing that Beecham's Hot Lemon is banned. You'd think that would be totally innocuous.
Fledgling science site at http://www.sciencefile.org/SF/content/view/54/98/ needs members and original articles. If you can help, please join.

*

Offline RD

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • 8172
    • View Profile
How reliable are tests for drug use and doping?
« Reply #7 on: 07/10/2008 01:20:43 »
http://www.theathlete.org/banned_drugs/index.html

I didn't see very popular Ritalin (or its pseudonyms) on this list of banned drugs.
Ritalin is an amphetamine-like stimulant so could be performance enhancing.