The China Anti-Doping Agency (CADA) spent approximately $10 million dollars and six years to create a new state of the art laboratory specifically for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Roughly one quarter of that budget ($2.7 million) was used to purchase 60-80 various laboratory testing instruments. The primary beneficiaries of these purchases were the analytical laboratory equipment manufacturers, and (“ ,” August 11).
Stuart P. Cram, strategic marketing vice president at Thermo Fisher, reports that their company has numerous service engineers available 24 hours a day during the Beijing Olympics to maintain uninterrupted and efficient operation of the Thermo Fisher testing equipment. Chinese Anti-Doping Agency purchased several products from their company including:
- (2) Thermo Fisher DFS Sector Field gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) systems;
- (1) Thermo Fisher Delta V isotope ratio mass spectrometer – used to distinguish between “natural and synthetic steroids”;
- (4) Thermo Fisher triple-quadrupole TSQ Quantum Access liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) systems
Agilent Technologies supplies the China Anti-Doping Agency with the majority of their steroid testing and drug detection equipment. Stephen B. Crisp, international business development manager at Agilent, states that Agilent also has technicians available 24/7 to maintain the operational status of Agilent equipment that includes 18 liquid/mass stations and 19 gas/mass stations.
- Agilent 1200 Series LC/MS units
- Agilent 6400 Series triple-quadrupole LC/MS units
- Agilent 6100 Series single-quadrupole LC/MS units
- Agilent 6300 Series ion trap LC/MS
- Agilent 7890A GC/MS units
- (8) unspecified laboratory instrumentation
Crisp also reports that different screening methods are used for different sports depending on the performance enhancing drugs most prevalent in that particular sport.
The Beijing lab will use screening methods that vary depending on the drugs athletes tend to favor in a particular competition. “Different compounds are suspected in different sports,” Crisp explains.
Phenomenex is a manufacturer of solid-phase extraction columns used in both GC/MS and LC/MS equipment. The separation columns are used to prepare samples for analysis according to Terrell Matthews, product manager for Phenomenex.
Important to the efficient operation of GC/MS and LC/MS instruments at the Olympics are the solid-phase extraction columns that clean up and concentrate target compounds from urine for analysis, says Terrell Mathews, product manager for Phenomenex, a maker of separation columns. Sample purification steps can take 60% of a lab technician’s time and can be a significant source of lab errors, he says.
The new anti-doping lab in use at the 2008 Beijing Olympics will conduct approximately 4,500 drug tests during the Olympic games and will analyze samples for over 400 different drugs on the WADA list of banned substances in the following nine classes of performance enhancing drugs: anabolic steroids, hormones, beta-2 agonists, hormone antagonists and modulators, diuretics, stimulants, narcotics, cannabinoids, and glucocorticosteroids. Each different piece of testing equipment has a unique function in the drug testing process (“,” August 4).
Regardless of when or where a sample is gathered, its first stop after entering the testing lab is the Agilent 7890A gas chromatograph, which separates and detects the different components in the sample, isolating the banned substances from the normal biological molecules. The sample is vaporized with heat, and the gas enters the 7890A’s separation column. As the gas moves through the column, the different atomic weights of its component compounds cause them to travel at different speeds (the lighter ones exit the column first). By measuring the speed, amount and sequence at which the components exit the column, investigators can readily identify most substances on the banned list.
But some compounds, such as peptide hormones, are destroyed by the vaporization process, requiring use of a liquid chromatograph. Using the same principle as the gas chromatograph to separate molecules by atomic weight, the Agilent 1200 series liquid chromatograph substitutes a liquid solvent that moves through the column. The liquid solvent takes longer to separate the molecules but preserves the molecules that would otherwise be destroyed by the heat of vaporization.
“About three out of four samples are analyzed using gas chromatography, but use of liquid chromatography is increasing because many of the new compounds are destroyed by vaporization,” said Sheehan.
If either the gas- or liquid-chromatograph indicates a questionable substance is present, then the sample is submitted to the mass spectrometer, which can confirm the chemical identity of virtually any compound. The mass spectrometer measures the molecular weight of the questionable substance, producing a unique chemical fingerprint that is compared with the fingerprints of known banned substances, providing unambiguous confirmation of the gas- or liquid-chromatograph results.
The science of anti-doping is a complicated process and big business for laboratory equiipment manufacturers.