Doping is a serious problem in the world of competitive sports. In addition to undermining the perceived legitimacy of sporting events and giving athletes an unfair advantage over their competition, it can also pose serious, potentially even fatal, risks for those who use performance-enhancing drugs.
Major sporting leagues have by and large treated the problem with the seriousness it deserves, doing their best to identify and disqualify athletes found to have used banned substances. The challenge, however, lies in accurately detecting the full spectrum of drugs which might be used by an athlete seeking to boost their performance, as new compounds and new methods to evade detection are constantly being developed.
This is where High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) enters the picture. A sophisticated process with a wide variety of applications, HPLC has become an important tool in the fight against doping.
Sensitivity and Accuracy Are Essential When Performing Drug Tests
There are a broad range of concerns that must be kept in mind when choosing an appropriate method for athletic drug testing. With the unending development of new doping agents, tests need to be able to identify novel substances that have not yet been chemically characterized. Sensitivity and accuracy are also essential concerns, as both false negatives and false positives can have serious and lasting repercussions for athletes, either mistakenly banning a competitor who has not actually taken any prohibited substances, or allowing a competitor who has to evade detection.
HPLC offers just what’s needed: an accurate and sensitive method of detection, which also has a higher throughput than alternative methods and can test for several compounds simultaneously.
How Scientists with HPLC Certification Test for Doping Agents
Using HPLC to detect doping agents requires combining an athlete’s urine or plasma sample with water and solvents—and passing this mobile phase through a column that will separate compounds from each other.
This process provides scientists who have trained in HPLC courses with the ability to rapidly and accurately test for the presence of performance-enhancing substances, even if they are present only in minute quantities.
HPLC Can Even Be Used to Test Race Horses for Prohibited Substances
The problem of doping isn’t just limited to human athletes, either. Race horses, for example, must also be tested—and not only for performing-enhancing drugs, but for performance-impairing drugs as well, resulting in a much wider scope of banned substances than is the case with human athletes. Once again, HPLC has proven itself useful in this regard, with the method used on samples of horses’ hair in order to detect minute traces of drugs. By using hair rather than (or in addition to) urine or plasma, anti-doping professionals with HPLC certification can establish not only whether a horse has been exposed to a prohibited substance, but also establish the timing of that exposure.
Are you interested in a career working with HPLC?
Contact AAPS College to learn more about our HPLC and lab certificate program.