Whenever athletes willfully or accidentally ingest performance-enhancing drugs or other banned substances (such as drugs of abuse), markers of those drugs can be detected in biological samples (e.g., biofluids: urine, saliva, blood); in the case of some drugs, that evidence can be apparent for many weeks following the last exposure to the drug. In addition to the willful use of prohibited drugs, athletes can accidentally ingest banned substances in contaminated dietary supplements or foods and inadvertently fail a drug test that could mean the end of an athletic career and the loss of a good reputation. The proliferation of performance-enhancing drugs and methods has required a corresponding increase in the analytical tools and methods required to identify the presence of banned substances in biofluids. Even though extraordinary steps have been taken by organizations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency to limit the use of prohibited substances and methods by athletes willing to cheat, it is apparent that some athletes continue to avoid detection by using alternative doping regimens or taking advantage of the limitations in testing methodologies. This article reviews the testing standards and analytical techniques underlying the procedures used to identify banned substances in biological samples, setting the stage for future summaries of the testing required to establish the use of steroids, stimulants, diuretics, and other prohibited substances.
Cadwallader is with the Dept. of Life Sciences, Aegis Sciences Corporation, Nashville, TN. Murray is with Sports Science Insights, Crystal Lake, IL.