New non-steroidal anabolic compounds cause headaches to doping agencies
And one more on xenoandrogens and doping (from July 2011)
Doping is bad. It’s not only unfair, it’s also unhealthy. Or at least it used to be… Anti-doping crusaders had it easy when persuading us about the ills of anabolic steroids: liver damage, testosterone inhibition, vascular and sometimes heart-tissue damage, increased LDL are all scary side-effects, not to mention the devastation that anabolic steroids are causing among teenagers, who are prone to suffer more from hormonal drugs.
But with the onset of novel (and harmless) muscle-growth stimulants, the crusade becomes harder to defend.
Some 10 years ago it seemed that the most promising muscle-growth stimulants of the future will be myostatin inhibitors (or myostatin blockers). That made sense – myostatin is a protein that actually inhibits the unlimited muscle growth. So by inhibiting the inhibitor, your muscles should get huge with just the required protein intake. Muscular Piedmontese bulls with inherited genetic trait that blocks the myostatin were brought as a shining example of the possible results. However, after several years of unsuccessful trials, most researchers gave up the idea that myostatin inhibition is possible in humans in the near future.
Considering the fiasco with myostatin blockers, xenohormones came as a huge surprise. It should have not: we knew for decades that certain proteins present in soy and other vegetable (as well as some synthetic products like plastic bottles) have effects similar to estrogen hormone. Phytoestrogens (estrogen-like compounds present in plants) or xenoestrogens (“foreign” estrogen-like compounds of any origin) can cause male infertility and many other estrogenic effects.
But until recently, we knew of no naturally occurring xenoandrogen, or testosterone-like substance found in the nature. Natural xenoandrogens might well not exist, there are however artificial xenoandrogens produced by small alterations in naturally occurring tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Such modified tocopherols/tocotrienols are almost indistinguishable from existing anabolic steroid drugs. And that’s the problem – or at least a huge challenge for anti-doping authorities who are caught completely unprepared and hapless.
Being most similar to vitamin E, modified tocopherols are obviously legal. So far, not side-effects are known and so there is even no reason to categorize them as prescription drugs.
At 2011 swimming championship in Shanghai, the Russian team doctor has been caught with what looked very much like anabolic steroids. The vials have been tested but no hormones found. The case looked like a double embarrassment for the team: they were caught red-handed with anabolic steroids, which were even fake… But later the anti-doping committee realized that the Russians had something completely new and legal: modified tocopherols from European producer. The team grabbed 3rd place in Shanghai, what it means for the future of doping remains to be seen…