New IM-MS Method Can Be Helpful In Detection of Doping

Doping is widespread in athletes worldwide. It’s a standard procedure necessary for sports that require high-energy performance. 

For an athlete, a dope test may feel like a scary word. However, experts have launched various techniques to detect illegal drugs with the help of urine samples. Even then, many cases of doping are reported every year.

Since the Olympics season is about to arrive, the regulatory agencies are more concerned about keeping it clean. For that, they have come up with a new detecting method known as Ion Mobility-Mass Spectrometry. This will make doping challenging to hide.

Science Daily covers the secrets of IM-MS methods that can prove to be groundbreaking among the doping techniques.

Why Is Doping Banned?

Some performance-enhancing drugs are prohibited for athletes. The use of these drugs is called doping. The regulatory authorities have some primary reasons for banning these drugs;

Firstly, the negative consequences of these drugs are long-lasting. Perhaps they can cause;

  • Cardiovascular issues, irregular heartbeat, hypertension, blood clots, and even sudden death.
  • Mental health causes depression, aggression, stroke, suicide, anxiety, headache, etc.
  • It has side effects on the respiratory system as well.
  • Infertility, breast and testicular diseases, lower sex desire, and cancer.

Secondly, these drugs help to improve athletes’ performance and give them extra strength to perform. Hence this is unfair and unethical to those who play upon their natural power.

List of Banned Drugs

The classes of banned drugs include:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Stimulants
  • Steel drugs
  • Human growth hormones
  • Anti-estrogens
  • Blood doping
  • Gene manipulation
  • Beta-blockers
  • Excessive caffeine

What is WADA?

WADA is a World Anti-Doping Agency that the governments of several countries run. Its mission is to spread awareness about doping and to enhance the anti-doping capacity. 

Furthermore, it helps create a helpful environment for athletes who want to keep the sports clean and natural across the globe.

The team focuses on research, educating about doping and its consequences. They are also responsible for monitoring the anti-doping code all around the world.

Limitations Of Drug Detecting Techniques

WADA publishes a list of banned drugs every year. This makes it easier to avoid the usage of prohibited drugs. Besides, there are different techniques to detect the use. However, there are some limitations as well.

  • It isn’t easy to distinguish between the natural compounds from the urine sample’s drug compounds.
  • As soon as the regulatory agencies develop a detecting technique, clandestine labs design another drug to boost an athlete’s performance. Perhaps, this is challenging for anti-doping agencies to counter this issue.

How To Make Detection Unquestionable?

The techniques involved in the development of the new method are;

Mass Spectrometry

It is a technique that separately identifies the known and unknown materials in a compound. So, it evaluates the quality of molecules in a mix.


Chromatography is a technique used to separate the solutes in a compound based on their compound amount.

New Technique

Christopher Chouinard, PhD. of Florida institute, is the principal investigator of this project. He and his team are trying to develop a method to differentiate natural and synthetic steroids. Moreover, they are working on the structure of the molecules. That will help to detect the new compounds in the urine sample of an athlete.

The experts are using these two techniques to identify the doping compounds in a urine sample. However, the detection of smaller components is difficult by using these methods. 

There are isomers in the steroids. They are challenging to detect using these methods. For example, synthetic anabolic steroids that are used to build muscles contain isomers.

Ion Mobility-Mass Spectrometry

Chouinard experimented with the spectrometry technique with ion mobility. He studied the process while he was graduating. 

At first, the molecules are modified to ion mobility-mass spectrometry.  Then reacted with other compounds. This makes the isomers more prominent and will be easier to identify.

In the presence of ultraviolet light, he reacted to ozone or acetone with steroid samples. Although, this reaction is already established among researchers for the study of isomers. But for detection of doping, the procedure was new.

Was The Experiment Successful? 

Chouinard and his team claimed that they had successfully experimented with the method. The separation of isomers and identification of new compounds in samples was recorded. They experimented with the IM-MS method last year. 

Recently, the regulatory bodies have tested the technique. They tried it against half of the drugs present in the new list of WADA. The results show that this method helps in the separation and identification of banned compounds in urine.

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Other Advantages

Glucocorticoids are the hormones that help in reducing swelling and pain. It also helps in suppressing the immune system. Although, there are some banned glucocorticoids as declared by WADA. 

The IM-MS helps in the identification of prohibited glucocorticoids such as cortisone. The drug helps in reducing pain and stiffness of joints instantly during and after sports.

Not only known but unknown dopants are also detectable with the help of this method. The researcher Roberto Peverati Ph.D. and other researchers of Florida institute are working on it.

They are trying their best to develop a mechanical structure for this method. With the help of computational modeling, it will be much easier to understand and identify these molecules’ composition.

The identification of theoretical steroids can reduce doping. Moreover, it will help in detecting new compounds immediately. This will be less time-consuming than the regular anti-doping testing procedures.

However, the procedure and implementation are quick and easy. But the instrument for IM is expensive. The estimated cost is a million-dollar, according to Chouinard. 

Since the anti-doping organizations and governments of member countries are helping, they are looking forward to making the sports cleaner and doping-free. Hence, their support will speed up the process.  

Bottom Line

Doping itself is very dangerous. Besides, it has many adverse outcomes on the health of an athlete in the future. The benefits of doping are not long-lasting. Yet, it is unfair to those who play with their natural strength. It kills the sportsman spirit of an athlete.

Scientists and researchers all around the world are working on methodologies to reduce doping. Their focus is to make the coming Olympics cleaner and doping-free. 

If the scientists can establish this new methodology, it will be a considerable contribution. This will make doping detectable. Thus, the athletes couldn’t hide it easily.

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