Androgens and doping tests: genetic variation and pit-falls

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The large variation in disposition known for most drugs is also true for anabolic androgenic steroids. Genetic factors are probably the single most important cause of this variation. Further, there are reasons to believe that there is a corresponding variation in efficacy of doping agents. Doped individuals employ a large variety of doping strategies in respect of choice of substance, dose, dose interval, duration of treatment and use of other drugs for enforcement of effects or correction of side effects.Metabolic steps up-stream and down-stream of testosterone are genetically variable and contribute substantially to the variation in disposition of testosterone, the most common doping agent in sports and in society. Large inter- and intra-ethnic variation in testosterone glucuronidation and excretion is described as well as the pit-falls in evaluation of testosterone doping test results. The hydrolysis and bioactivation of testosterone enanthate is also genetically variable yielding a 2–3 fold variation in excretion rate and serum concentration, thereby implicating a substantial variation in ‘efficacy’ of testosterone.Given this situation it is logical to adopt the new findings in the doping control programme. The population based cut-off level for the testosterone : epitestosterone ratio should be replaced by a Bayesian interpretation of consecutive tests in the same individual. When combined with the above genetic information the sensitivity of the test is considerably improved. The combination of the three approaches should reduce the rate of falsely negative or positive results and the number of expensive follow-up tests, stipulated by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

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