World Anti-Doping Agency says it has uncovered new designer steroid
Tue Feb 1, 4:55 PM ET
MONTREAL (CP) - The World Anti-Doping Agency, in uncovering a new designer steroid dubbed Desoxy-Methyl Testosterone or DMT, hopes it is a step ahead of athletes who cheat.
The Canada Border Services Agency, formerly Canada Customs, seized a bottle of the drug at the Canada-U.S. border at Coutts, Alta., in December, 2003. An anonymous e-mailer alerted WADA to the seizure and the organization worked with federal government scientists to determine it was a new form of performance-enhancing steroid.
"We believe that this one, DMT, hasn't been used and that we are, in this case, ahead of the dopers," said Olivier Rabin, director of science for WADA.
Christiane Ayotte, director of the WADA-accredited doping lab in Montreal, said re-tests of stored urine samples taken from athletes in recent months showed no trace of the drug and she believes it was caught before it went into general circulation.
Further tests are underway to determine the exact properties and effects of DMT, but the structure of the molecule has been established and dope-testing centres around the world have been alerted to the drug, she added.
There are no plans yet to re-test samples taken at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, she said.
Rabin said re-tests may be done if further new drugs are discovered.
DMT appears to be a new generation of steroid from THG, the muscle-building compound discovered in 2003 that sparked a federal inquiry in the United States into the Balco Laboratory, the suspected source of the drug.
"It has been modified obviously to make it undetectable," Ayotte said, although she added it probably would have been caught by drug testers because of its methyl testosterone signature.
However, the complexity of the drug and the process needed to produce it suggests it was made by trained chemists with access to sophisticated lab facilities.
"THG was a modification by a simple, one-step chemical reaction," she said. "But in this case, it's a several-step synthesis and they have used chemical reactions that are very dangerous.
"What it tells us is that we have a chemist with a very serious organic chemistry background helping the people who distribute steroids to athletes."
She said it was not known who produced the drug or who in Canada was to receive it, adding it was under investigation by Canadian and U.S. authorities.
"If that person is an athlete or coach, it is a doping-related offence," she said.
She also could not name the whistle-blower who alerted WADA. The bottle seized by border services contained a transparent, oily liquid. Chris Kealey, a spokesman for Border Services, said other material was also seized but gave no details.
He said one person was charged, who is expected to be sentenced this week in a court in Lethbridge, Alta.
Dope-testing centres are constantly on alert for new substances that try to get past their equipment. Ayotte said her lab was close to identifying at least one other new designer steroid, but gave no details.
Ayotte said use of designer drugs was not epidemic, but that publicity about them, particularly the THG case, made them attractive in some athletic circles.
"It's not an epidemic is terms of the number of athletes using those drugs, but it is a process we see more now," she said.
THG was discovered after an anonymous track and field coach told the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that several top athletes were using the drug. Urine samples at the U.S. national championships were re-tested and several athletes came up positive.
A grand jury investigated Balco for alleged tax evasion and subpoenaed more than forty athletes who were Balco clients, including track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery and baseball slugger Barry Bonds.