March 20, 2009 / 3:38 PM / 10 years ago

German lab develops test for gene doping

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German research laboratory said Friday it had successfully developed a test for gene doping, tracing a substance that increases muscle tissue and boosts endurance levels.

Gene doping, the practice of using genetic engineering to artificially enhance athletic performance, is seen as the next major drugs threat to sport as doping becomes more sophisticated.

“For the first time a substance for gene doping has been traced through mass spectrometry,” the German Sports University Cologne (DSHS) said of the procedure.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said it had been informed about the test which it said fined-tuned existing procedures to test for the substance.

“This is good news and what you would expect from a WADA-accredited lab,” WADA Science Director Olivier Rabin told Reuters.

“When we added this substance, GW1516, to the list of banned substances it was clear those substances were detectable. What Cologne did is to improve the method of detection.”

GW1516, traced by scientists at the DSHS’s center for preventive doping research, had already been placed on WADA’s 2009 banned substances list.

“The GW1516 increases the volume of so-called endurance muscles as well as enzymes to gain energy from fat. In sport this substance could be abused to increase stamina,” the DSHS said on its website (www.dshs-koeln.de).

“This shows that the general statement that gene doping testing is still far away and that it can only be achieved through costly research must be revised,” it said.

The International Olympic Committee and WADA have boosted their fight against doping, sharply increasing the number of tests at last year’s Beijing Olympics and reviewing their anti-doping code that now also targets the athletes’ entourage.

The German capital Berlin will host this year’s world athletics championships in August.

Writing by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Rex Gowar

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