Agilent technologies in drug testing

Media Backgrounder – perspective and detail for journalists:
For more than 30 years, Agilent Technologies has been a leading provider of analytical instruments for drug testing in sports. In 1972, Agilent supplied analytical instrumentation to the lab serving the first Olympic Games in which testing was required. Since then, Agilent technology has played a role with drug testing labs serving each of the Olympic Games as well as major events such as World Cup Soccer and the Tour de France. Agilent provides instrumentation to doping control laboratories that allow scientists to identify, confirm and quantify thousands of substances in a wide variety of samples. The company does not perform the actual analysis of the samples nor is it involved in determining the regulations. In addition to instrumentation, Agilent helps labs develop methods for detecting banned substances, training, technical support and servicing/maintenance of instrumentation. The Banned List
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has outlined six classes of prohibited substances: stimulants; narcotics; anabolic agents/steroids; diuretics; peptide hormones and related compounds; and other restricted drugs. These classes include more than 400 substances and thousands of related compounds. International sports associations and professional sport leagues usually follow the WADA guidelines with some exceptions. Each class of drugs provides different advantages in performance and so are more likely to be used in certain sports. Likewise, each drug class is more suited for a certain type of instrument and analysis. Stimulants
To increase alertness and aggression and reduce fatigue during competition Long-distance running, cycling, American football, baseball Amphetamines, caffeine, cocaine, ephedrine Narcotics
To reduce pain sensitivity during training and competition Boxing, contact sports, other sports for faster recovery during training Anabolic Agents/Steroids
To increase muscle strength and bulk during training All sports, including weightlifting, gymnastics, track and field Gas and liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry Testosterone, nandrolone, THG, beta-2 agonists Diuretics
To lose weight quickly, to evade doping tests by diluting urine Sports with weight classes such as weightlifting, wrestling and boxing; may be used in all sports to attempt to hide drug use Gas and liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry Peptide Hormone and related substances
To increase muscle strength and bulk; to increase endurance Various sports; For example, growth hormones and factors are used in strength sports and bodybuilding, EPO for endurance events such as cycling and long-distance running Liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry and immunoassays; misuse can be difficult to detect reliably as these compounds occur naturally in the body human growth hormone (HGH), erythropoietin (EPO)
Other Restricted Drugs
Various although many are not considered to enhance performance Various sports; For example, beta blockers are used in events requiring concentration (archery, shooting) to calm nerves and reduce hand tremors Gas and liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry Marijuana, corticosteroids, beta blockers, alcohol, local anesthetics The most commonly tested biological sample is urine because it is easier to collect adequate volumes
and collection is not invasive. Drug and metabolite levels are also higher in urine than other sample types.
Some types of drugs are difficult to detect in urine, however, so blood samples may be tested.
Athletes can be tested at any time and any place. When the testing is in connection with a specific athletic
competition (Olympics, Pan-American Games, etc.), it is considered “in competition.” When the testing is
away from competition, in the off-season or during training, it is considered “out-of-competition.” In this
testing, the anti-doping officials arrive unannounced at the athlete’s home or training center and collect a
sample for subsequent analysis.
More information about the sample collection process is available on the Agilent backgrounder titled
“Drug Testing: Sample Collection and Chain of Custody.”
The Sample Analysis Process
Three technologies form the core of most major drug testing laboratories: gas chromatography (GC),
liquid chromatography (LC) and mass spectrometry (MS). These state-of-the-art technologies are the
same as those used in homeland security, forensics/criminal investigation, environmental testing, and
food safety. Their extreme sensitivity makes it very difficult for drug users to evade detection. For
example, they can detect anabolic steroids that were used as much as 10 months prior to competition.
Gas Chromatography (GC)

When a sample is sent to a doping control laboratory, it is first screened using an Agilent 7890A GC system. Gas chromatography separates and detects the components in a sample. First, a sample is vaporized and is sent into a separation column. The compounds in the sample separate in the column and are detected one by one as they exit. The speed and sequence at which the components exit the column identify unknown compounds in the sample. Agilent 7890 GC
Agilent 7890A GC

Liquid Chromatography (LC)

Gas chromatography may not be suitable to screen for certain compounds such as peptide hormones as these compounds cannot survive the vaporizing process. In these cases, the samples are screened using liquid chromatography on an Agilent 1200 Series LC system. LC is another technique for separating and detecting sample components. It uses a liquid solvent instead of a gas (like in GC) to carry the sample into a column for separation and detection. Agilent 1200 Series LC

Mass spectrometry

If a banned substance is detected during screening, it goes to a mass spectrometer to confirm its chemical identity. The mass spectrometer often is directly connected to a gas chromatograph or a liquid chromatograph to form highly sensitive and specific GC/MS and LC/MS systems. The mass spectrometer measures the molecular weight of substances, generating a spectral pattern that is unique to the compound being analyzed. This chemical “fingerprint” is compared to a database of reference spectra to provide unambiguous confirmation of the compound. Agilent 5975C GC/MS


World Anti-Doping Agency:


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