German researchers say they have successfully developed a test to detect instances of gene doping. As doping in the sports world becomes more sophisticated, genetic engineering is seen as the next major threat.
Researchers try to keep up with quickly changing doping techniques
The test traces a special substance, known as GW1516, which artificially increases the volume of so-called endurance muscles and enzymes that gain energy from fat.
"For the first time, a substance for gene doping has been traced through mass spectrometry," the German Sports University Cologne (DSHS) said of the procedure, which was announced this week.
Mario Thevis, a researcher who helped develop the test, said it was ready for use.
The next forntier
Doping is a real threat to Olympic ideals
Gene doping is the practice of using genetic engineering to enhance athletic performance. As doping tests become more advanced, drug makers try to stay a step ahead with gene doping being considered the next frontier.
GW1516 has already been placed on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances.
WADA Science Director Olivier Rabin told Reuters news agency that the chemical had already been detectable, but that the Cologne scientists improved existing test procedures.
"This is good news and what you would expect from a WADA-accredited lab," he said.
The new test could be brought into play at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.