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Three Takeaways from the 2017 Science Symposium

In October 2017, more than 100 of the world’s top anti-doping experts and academics from diverse fields gathered for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s 16th Annual Symposium on Anti-Doping Science in Orlando, Florida, where they worked to advance current anti-doping science and shape the future of anti-doping research.

The invited experts explored the theme, “Pharmacokinetics and Detection Windows: Interpretation of Long Term Metabolism and Excretion” to further the understanding of drug accumulation, long-term metabolism, and the modelling of these physiological process. While the extension of detection windows of prohibited substances is generally associated with effective doping deterrence, the Symposium also focused on the balance between detecting ever-lower concentrations of prohibited substances and determining how an anti-doping rule violation has occurred.

Even though the topics discussed at the 2017 Science Symposium were highly technical, there are some key takeaways for everyone impacted by anti-doping science and rules:

1. Excretion studies enable the discovery of new anabolic androgenic steroid (AAS) metabolites and improved detection windows. 

In anti-doping research, there has been a dedicated effort in recent years to discover and characterize new anabolic steroid long-term metabolites, which has resulted in a large improvement in the detection of AAS use. These advancements have been coupled with significant improvements in mass spectrometry instrumentation, allowing for increased detection sensitivity.

Essentially, excretion studies enable anti-doping authorities to stay ahead of athletes who seek performance-enhancement benefits by facilitating the discovery of new AAS metabolites and greater detection windows. Testing athletes at the right time and frequency to maximize both detection and deterrence is critical.

2. Mathematical modeling may be a useful anti-doping tool to help with drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics. 

Physiologically-based pharmacokinetic models are often used in the field of drug discovery because the modeling helps better describe the biological drivers behind drug metabolism. More specifically, these models can help explain the complex absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME) process, which reveals why drug metabolites may be present in urine weeks and/or months after an ingestion or series of ingestions.

In anti-doping, information on ADME of prohibited substances is important because it allows authorities to determine when a prohibited substance was ingested and if it was done in violation of anti-doping rules. Many confounding factors may influence ADME of a particular drug in the human body, so gaining a better understanding of the process is critical to effectively handling anti-doping results management, as well as developing athlete education messages.

3. Increase in supplement products that contain banned substances not listed on the label. 

During the Symposium, attendees also reviewed several global case studies from the last year that involved contaminated supplements containing prohibited substances not listed on the supplement facts label. These cases have become more prevalent in recent years, making it clear that contaminated supplements pose a significant risk to athletes. By analyzing the substances and circumstances behind these cases, anti-doping experts can better educate athletes on how to avoid risks, while also informing efforts to better regulate the supplement industry.

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