Oct. 26, 2006 Athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs try to get around anti-doping rules by turning to "designer steroids" -- drugs that are not on the list of banned substances, and off the testers' radar screen. In one recent high-profile case, world-class sprinters used the new steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) for months until an informant sent a sample to antidoping authorities.
John B. O. Mitchell and colleagues from the University of Cambridge are reporting development of a method for quickly identifying newly emerging designer steroids before they go into wide use in sports.
Their study is scheduled for the November/December issue of the bi-monthly ACS Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling. The scientists used chemoinformatics -- research based on computer and informational techniques -- to classify banned drugs into groups. Drugs in each group share similar chemical and biological properties.
In practice, the approach could be used to identify new designer drugs like THG based on their similarities to existing banned substances.
Anti-doping rules forbid use of drugs with a "similar chemical structure" as well as those with "similar biological effect," an approach that Mitchell said risks disqualifying athletes unjustly. The new approach would reduce the risks of unwanted disqualifications, researchers said.
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