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Last Updated: Monday, 2 June, 2003, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
Doping test for sport drug cheats
Ben Johnson, who tested positive for steroids
Sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids
Research which could make it easier to catch drug cheats in sport is being carried out by scientists at a Scottish university.

A new test being developed by researchers at Dundee University could help distinguish between natural and artifical steroids.

It has previously been difficult to identify the difference between testosterone which occurs naturally in the body and anabolic steroids, the pharmaceutically manufactured strain of the hormone.

The discovery could make it easier to catch drugs cheats such as Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who tested positive for steroids after winning 100m gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

The test works by identifying crucial differences between animal steroids produced in the body, and plant steroids, used by pharmaceutical companies to make the drugs.

'Making steroids'

Professor Mike Rennie, who is leading the team of researchers, said the distinction is relatively simple to detect.

"Plants and animals have very different ways of making steroids," he said.

"Both set of steroids are marked with a distinctive 'signature'.

"We are developing a method, using a very sensitive mass spectrometer, which can distinguish between the natural signatures carried by the carbon and hydrogen atoms in normal bodily testosterone and the testosterone which is made from plant material."

Prof Rennie and his team have received a 100,000 grant from the World Anti-Doping Agency, which was established by the International Olympic Committee in 1999, to help with their research.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Dr Mike Rennie
"We know it works in principle."



SEE ALSO:
Doping dangers reinforced
26 Feb 02  |  Health
Games end under a cloud
25 Feb 02  |  Front Page News
Proof positive for Olympic drug tests
25 Feb 02  |  Front Page News
New drugs give cheats the edge
30 Jan 02  |  Science/Nature
Athlete complains of harsh security
09 Feb 02  |  Other Skiing


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