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Yael Grauer
07-02-2007, 09:34 PM
Cheating athletes could soon by rumbled by insulin test
10 March 2007
From New Scientist Print Edition.

ATHLETES who inject themselves with synthetic insulin to boost their performance could soon be caught out by a simple urine test. Athletes and bodybuilders sometimes inject insulin because it makes carbohydrates from food burn more efficiently, providing extra energy. It also prevents muscle breakdown.

Sports authorities banned insulin in 1998 amid rumours that bodybuilders were abusing it, but until now there has been no test available to detect cheats. In the interim, new forms of insulin with longer-lasting effects have been developed.

These synthetic forms of insulin only differ from the natural version by a couple of amino acids. Wilhelm Schänzer and his colleagues at the German Sport University in Cologne have now managed to identify the unique "fingerprint" of long-lasting insulin using a technique called mass spectrometry. This breaks the insulin into fragments and separates them according to weight, generating a spectral pattern of peaks which would look different for synthetic and natural insulin (Analytical Chemistry, DOI: 10.1021/ac062037t).

The test is being evaluated by the World Anti-Doping Agency and should be ready for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

From issue 2594 of New Scientist magazine, 10 March 2007