A new drug-testing kit being developed at Otago University can pick up designer steroids, with researchers hoping it will transform anti-doping at the highest levels of world sport.
The test can pick up designer steroids before anti-doping agencies even know what they're made of, levelling the playing field between the cheats and the scientists.
Professor Alison Heather says the test would be able to disqualify dirty athletes on the spot.
“This will shake up the industry. We've got the first rapid screen non-targeted test for steroids that can detect these steroids in blood, urine or sports supplements,” Dr Heather said.
Current testing methods only detect designer steroids that scientists already know the make-up of, meaning anti-doping agencies are constantly playing catch up.
There are designer steroids that are coming on the market every year, new ones that are sold over the internet or in sports supplements that we don’t know the structure of,” Dr Heather said.
“There is no specific test. But our test will be able to detect them as soon as they start being used by athletes.”
Rather than seek out specific molecules, the new test detects molecular activity within cells.
With more than a million dollars already invested, the technology will be trialled in racehorse labs from October, with the goal to eventually move to humans.
“It actually is ground-breaking technology. The idea behind the business is to help create a level playing field for athletes around the globe,” InsituGen CEO Dr Ojas Mahapatra said.
The Kiwi formerly at the head of the World Anti Doping Agency says while the test is exciting, bureaucracy could add years to it being cleared for use on humans.
“WADA wins fights, not the war, so from time to time has something new it can bring out and make sure the cheats are found but it's a difficult war. And it’s one where the cheats seem to have more money than those who are trying to detect them,” former WADA head Dave Howman said.