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Research Highlights, Scientific Support for Doping Analysis in Preparation for 2020

National Metrology Institute of Japan
Scientific Support for Doping Analysis in Preparation for 2020
IHARA Toshihide, SAITO Naoki
Research Institute for Material and Chemical Measurement

Scientific support for doping analysis

The Research Laboratory for Calibration Standards in Doping Analysis has been established and is engaged in research to contribute to improving the reliability of analytical values in doping analysis.

Figure: Building an SI-traceable analysis infrastructure by enhancement of quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (qNMR) and its peripheral technologies
Building an SI-traceable analysis infrastructure by enhancement of quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (qNMR) and its peripheral technologies

Strengthening the inspection base in preparation for 2020

Doping analysis for athletes participating in the Olympics and other international sporting events are performed based on the list of prohibited substances published by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). This list is updated every year and currently includes hundreds of substances. Doping analysis uses equipment such as a high-performance liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometer that can simultaneously analyze multiple prohibited substances. However, to calibrate this equipment, for each prohibited substance a reference material identical to it is required. Prohibited substances include metabolites and other substances that are difficult to synthesize in large quantities, and reference materials are consumed each time analysis is performed, so it is not easy to constantly maintain a stock of the required reference materials. It is important to enhance the lineup of reference materials with high metrological quality in order to obtain highly reliable doping analysis results. Therefore, WADA has requested AIST to provide metrological support as a part of strengthening the inspection infrastructure for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and other sporting events.

Photo: High-performance liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometer

Prompt and accurate provision of reference materials

AIST has led the world in practical application of quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (qNMR) as a technology for measuring the purity of reference materials. The laboratory has established for this purpose and will further enhance qNMR and develop technology that achieves both prompt and accurate analysis of prohibited substances to build an analytical infrastructure that is traceable to the International System of Units (SI). The technology developed by the laboratory will be provided to inspection and analytical organizations in the form of certified reference materials and calibration services from the National Metrology Institute of Japan (NMIJ) of AIST, and as NMIJ traceable reference materials from reagent manufacturers, etc. The objective is to help strengthen the doping inspection infrastructure for the Olympics and other international sporting events.

Photo: IHARA Toshihide

Further strengthening of the infrastructure through development of peripheral technologies including support for metabolites

Prohibited substances include substances that are metabolized into different substances inside the body. It is often difficult to obtain large quantities of those metabolites as reagents, so organic synthesis is needed to prepare reference materials. Therefore, technology will be developed that enables stable storage of low concentration solutions to help avoid consumption of large quantities of reference materials. Efforts will also be made to establish refining technologies to remove impurities that interfere with qNMR.

Photo: SAITO Naoki

Reference materials in doping analysis

Doping analysis must not only detect the target prohibited substances but also measure the amounts of the substances in the specimen. Appropriate measurement of substance amounts requires reference materials with high metrological quality so that analytical equipment can be correctly calibrated. This is because, if analysis equipment is calibrated using reference materials with inaccurate values, the scale by which it operates will be incorrect. For example, if a reference material with purity of only 50 % is incorrectly evaluated and treated as a pure material, the analytical results will indicate twice the actual amount of the substance in the specimen. If this problem occurs in a doping analysis, the results may indicate positive even though the actual amount is the allowable concentration or less (negative). Such a false positive can unfairly terminate or otherwise negatively affect the athlete's career. To prevent such outcomes, it is vital to calibrate analytical equipment using reference materials with high metrological quality. The need is therefore urgent to establish a system that enables inspection and analytical organizations to maintain a stock of high quality reference materials at all times without difficulty.


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