Russia, with her long history of doping is, in the news again today. The entire Russian rowing board is to be sacked following a litany of offences, primarily to save the national rowing team from an outright ban from the Beijing Olympiad. FISA, the international rowing governing body, warned the Russians that the only way to save their skins was a complete removal of the board. The Russians, according to Russian Olympic Commitee chief Leonid Tyagachov, will oblige immediately. The complaints from FISA center around doping confirmations at the World Championship in Munich last year and at the World Championships in 2006, where eventual skulls champion Olga Samulenkova tested positive for testosterone metabolites.
Full story here: http://sport.guardian.co.uk/breakingnews/feedstory/0,,-7306891,00.html
What is testosterone and why is it important?
Testosterone is a naturally occuring(endogenous) steroid that promotes protein synthesis and also the development of sexual organs, as well as the maintenance of sexual characteristics. After testosterone was first synthesised in the laboratory in the 1930s, it was put to use principally in the treatment of malnutrition and was used with staggering success to treat concentration camp victims after the Holocaust. The survivors had lost vast quanities of lean muscle and testosterone treatment helped them gain weight quickly, which using food alone would have taken a lot longer to achieve.
Testosterone first emerged on the doping scene in the 1950s when it was used by bodybuilders in the US. It persisted as a problem for many years until doping controls and chemistries made its detection quite routine by the 1970s. At that point its use began to diminish, as it was replaced by other steroids – often themselves structural analogues of steroids(the same basic steroid molecule with minor modifications) which then had to be deduced and detected by doping chemists. Testosterone use continued at a reduced level, and although still a problem, it could be readily detected.
Testosterone, however, has hit the news again in recent years, most notoriously in the case of Tour De France winner Floyd Landis, who was found guilty of using the drug in 2007, after much media debate and speculation. The principle reason behind such speculation is the fact that testosterone is a threshold substance – because it occurs naturally in the human body, it must be quantified to deem a positive. Years of pharmacological research have found that testosterone and another steroid, epitestosterone (an epimer of testosterone) exist in a 5:1 ratio in the human body. Athletes found to have a ratio greater than 5:1 are usually deemed positive. Testosterone therefore requires quantitation, which is a far more complex operation than simply identification, which is all that is required for synthetic(not naturally-occuring) steroids.