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New “designer” steroid discovered in anonymously provided syringe


Research News from Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry

A previously unknown synthetic “designer” steroid has been identified as tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). Researchers working out of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory in Los Angeles synthesized and characterized the “New Chemical Entity”, and proceeded to develop a rapid and accurate urine detection test for it. Details of the research are published this week in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry.

In June 2003, a spent syringe having allegedly contained an undetectable anabolic steroid was anonymously provided to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and the contents delivered to the research team in Los Angeles. The researchers, led by Don Catlin, detected an unfamiliar substance and deduced its chemical formula. They were then able to synthesize a compound with this formula, which they named tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) and which matched the unknown substance in the syringe.

Urine samples were purposely spiked with the newly identified THG and various analyses carried out to determine how the substance could be detected. Although it is not detectable by standard doping control screening, THG was found to be easily detectable by alternate methods. Once detection methods were established, the substance was administered to a baboon both intravenously and intramuscularly, and its excreted urine collected for analysis. It was determined that THG is detectable in urine after both IV and IM administration.

The designer drug identified in this study is different from anabolic steroids previously found in athletes’ urine samples. The Food and Drug Administration has warned that its use could pose health risks, and it cannot be legally marketed without approval.

Lead researcher Catlin attributes this discovery to the provision of crucial inside information, and believes it to be a valuable contribution to doping control. He says, “Now that there’s a test for THG, anyone using it can get caught, and it’s unlikely to be found again in an athlete’s urine sample.”

Jaida Harris | alfa
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