Biomarker Discovery & Application to Doping Detection & Deterrence

The 17th annual USADA symposium on anti-doping science was held over the weekend 28th September – 1th October in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The topic of this year’s symposia was on discovery of biomarkers, alternative matrices for testing and the application to doping detection.

The symposia gathered people working in anti-doping from most parts of the world and the majority of the WADA accredited laboratories were represented at the symposia as well as WADA, many of the different NADOs and the sport federations.

Biomarkers were thoroughly discussed with special emphasis on different “omnics” approaches and application to the athlete biological passport. Alternative matrices for doping detection was also presented. Applications with hair, oral fluid, breath and dried blood spots (DBS) were discussed. Many of these matrices are very promising and could possibly add both deterrence and additional knowledge when used in combination with existing sampling procedures for urine and blood.

Several WAADS members also contributed presenation to the symposium:

  • Searching for the "magic wound": Urinary metabolomic biomarkers to detect doping Francesco Botrè, PhD - Laboratorio Antidoping FMSI
  • Advancing the steroid module of the Athlete Biological Passport Peter Van Eenoo, PhD - DoCoLab Universiteit Gent-UGent
  • Transcriptomic and ironomic biomarkers to detect blood doping Nicolas Leuenberger, PhD - Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses
  • Alternative Matrices- moving beyond urine and blood Daniel Eichner, PhD – Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory
  • Biomarkers on the [dried] spot: the power of a drop of blood Jordi Segura, PhD - IMIM Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute
  • Implementing an effective deterrence program through indirect testing methods – strategies for anti-doping organizations Larry Bowers, PhD – LD Bowers LLC


The Larry D. Bowers Excellence in Anti-Doping Science Award was given to Dr. Matthias Kamber for his lifelong achievements in both anti-doping research and as the head of Anti-Doping Switzerland. Dr. Kamber gave an inspiring talk with the title: Thinking out of the box, Lessons learnt from Science.

A social event was held on Saturday after the sessions in the 360 Chicago observation deck, one of the tallest buildings in Chicago. Food and drinks were enjoyed together with a breathtaking night view of the Chicago skyline.

Next annual USADA symposium will be held in city for the next summer Olympics; Tokyo, Japan. The symposia will be held between October 4th and 7th 2019. The meeting will be co organized with Japan Anti-Doping Agency.

USADA meeting group photo
Dr Matthew Fedoruk, Dr. Matthias Kamber and Dr Larry D. Bowers

Following intensive restructuring and development, the South African Doping Control Laboratory (SADoCoL) in Bloemfontein, South Africa, regained full accreditation from WADA.

The road back for SADoCoL started early in 2015 when a turn-around plan for the laboratory was accepted by the local doping control role players, the University of the Free State (UFS) and WADA.  A period of rapid growth-activity followed, during which in-depth changes were made:

Additional scientific and administrative staff members were appointed, including a full-time Director.  The organizational and functional structure of the lab was adjusted as well as its reporting lines within the University of the Free State (UFS).  Extensive maintenance programs for instrumentation were implemented and various up-grades were performed, including the acquisition of new instruments.  Analysts were trained both in-house and abroad.  Methods were re-developed and the everlasting quest for reference standards was shifted into high gear.  With the appointment of a full-time Quality Manager, the quality management system and related documentation were redeveloped, improved and re-alignment with the ISO/IEC 17025 and ISL requirements.

Notwithstanding these efforts during 2015, it was apparent that the amount of work that was to be done while running an active production laboratory would not allow time for all the necessary development and therefore a decision was taken to voluntarily close the laboratory from April 2016, for at least six months, to allow time for fundamental changes.  Due to an accumulation of more than 30 EQAS points during 2015, WADA also suspended the laboratory as of 2nd May 2016, to run concurrently with the voluntary closure.  Although major mile stones were already achieved in September 2016, the GC/C/IRMS was the main remaining analytical challenge and therefore an extension of six more months was granted.

In February 2017 a WADA site visit team assessed SADoCoL’s progress, where the significant improvements on our analytical capabilities, scientific knowledge, laboratory procedures, comprehensive Quality Management System and well-developed training programs were acknowledged, though issues remained with the complete validation of the GC/C/IRMS and its population study.  Although an in-depth IRMS training program was initiated at a European laboratory shortly after this visit, this obligatory method was not yet in place and that, together with the fact that the period of 1 year of suspension exceeded the time allowed by the ISL, compelled the Disciplinary Committee to recommend the revocation of SADoCoL’s WADA accreditation.  This was accepted by the EXCO and came into effect on 31 July 2017. 

However, motivated by the WADA’s acknowledgement of the progress achieved by SADoCoL and also following in-depth training, method development and validation of the IRMS method and with the addition thereof to SADoCoL’s scope of ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation, SADoCoL requested WADA to consider the possibility of a fast-track re-accreditation process according to specifications within the ISL.  WADA granted SADoCoL this opportunity and the process started with the third EQAS round of 2017.

Early March 2018, a second WADA site visit team visited SADoCoL for the Final Accreditation Test.  This included a thorough investigation of all aspects of the laboratory operations and documentation as well as witnessing the analysis and reporting of 20 EQAS samples within 5 days, which included IRMS confirmatory analysis.  The abbreviated outcome of this assessment was that previous issues were found to be addressed, a recommendation from the LabEG was forwarded to the EXCO, culminating in the announcement of the re-accreditation of SADoCoL.

This was a long and tortuous road and reaching our ultimate goal would not have been possible without the fantastic team of dedicated people at SADoCoL.  Hard work, tenacity and everyone’s contributions were vital in achieving this outcome.  Furthermore, we extend our appreciation to local role players and the University of the Free State for their support. 

We also acknowledge and are grateful for the support of our colleagues and friends in the WAADS community, because this goal could not have been achieved without tapping into the vast treasures of knowledge and experience available from them.  We made new friends in the anti-doping community and appreciate all their support and willingness to actively be part of our development.  Everyone’s involvement, from the start up to this very positive outcome, contributed to SADoCoL being re-accredited so that we can again fulfill our role of serving in this worthy cause.


Front row: Daniël Machaya; Crystal-Anne Barkhuizen; Faith Ndlovu; Thinus van der Merwe; Itumeleng Mabusa; Sherry-Allan Jacobs, Zeenat Raffi

Middle row: Wilmarì Meyer; Lucille Devine; Elandré Marais; Bonakele Moleme; Ebeth Grobbelaar; Betsie Human; Zedré Matthysen; Magda Britz

Back row: Hanno du Preez

Front row: Daniël Machaya; Crystal-Anne Barkhuizen; Faith Ndlovu; Thinus van der Merwe; Itumeleng Mabusa; Sherry-Allan Jacobs, Zeenat Raffi Middle row: Wilmarì Meyer; Lucille Devine; Elandré Marais; Bonakele Moleme; Ebeth Grobbelaar; Betsie Human; Zedré Matthysen; Magda Britz Back row: Hanno du Preez

ADLQ 8th Annual Symposium will be held on the 1st and 2nd of May 2018 in the Torch Ballroom in Qatar under the title 'Dietary Supplements: Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats' Drugs in sport is equally topical amongst both human and animals. Dietary supplements have become a potential source for many dopants. There is a widespread use of these supplements in elite and recreational athletes, as well as in the general population, not just for enhancing sport performance, but also for improving body image. Therefore, regulation of manufacture, use, and consequences of their abuse, require debate. This is especially so when ignorance is not a legitimate plea against a positive drug test. The premise of this symposium is the use of dietary supplements by athletes, both human and animals, and aims to highlight the associated prizes and pitfalls. Experts from both the human and animal nutrition and anti-doping arenas, including sports and general physicians, veterinarians and scientists will converge to contribute to this discourse. The Symposium is also offering a chance for Poster’s Presentation for interested participants of relevant theme of the Symposium, details are on the registration link.

Dietary Supplements: Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

On April 24th and 25th, the WADA accredited laboratory of Seibersdorf (Austria) hosted the 4th WAADS QA-meeting. At this occasion, 34 participants from 26 WADA accredited laboratories shared their thoughts on quality assurance in anti-doping analysis.

Mrs Victoria Ivanova from WADA, who is closely involved in drafting the new ISO17025 guideline, gave an excellent overview of the status of the new draft guideline with an emphasis on the changes proposed. Although not operational yet, this new guideline will have a high impact on quality assurance in accredited laboratories.

During the other technical sessions, the elements of the perfect standard operating procedure (SOP) were discussed to reach a consensus and harmonize the contents of these SOPs across the laboratories. Similarly, the first steps towards a consensus document on acceptable validation methodologies were set. This document could serve as a guideline for laboratories.

4th WAADS QA Manager Meeting Seibersdorf, Austria, April 24-25th 2017

As detection techniques, have become more sophisticated, both in animals and in human, so have doping processes and dopants. Increasingly these sport performance enhancing substances are minimally modified endogenous molecules, perhaps even gene therapy, that escape detection by current methodologies. The use of biomarkers, that potentially target a particular biological process, is amongst the most promising approaches in the fight against doping. The search for such novel markers utilizing big data and the omics platforms, and their validation has proved challenging. The extent to which this approach has been successful and the potential of using biomarkers for detecting doping in sport has been realized is the premise of this year’s symposium. Again, following on from discussions in the previous symposium the aim is to compare and contrast biomarkers of dopants, their nature and detection, in animals as opposed to humans. To facilitate this discourse, experts from both human and animal Anti-Doping arenas, veterinarians and scientists will be brought together.

The ADLQ Annual Symposium will take place on the 2nd and 3rd of May 2017 in Doha.

Abstract submission opens on the 1st February and closes at midnight local time on the 15th March  2017. The meeting is currently being considered for CME accreditation.

This symposium promises to offer new insights into the most recent research findings in the field of biomarkers in doping. We wish all participants a productive and engaging meeting and invite you all to experience Qatari hospitality. We are confident that you will take home significant new scientific information along with fond memories of your time in Doha.

ADLQ Annual Symposium will take place on the 2nd and 3rd of May 2017 in Doha

Prof. Martial Saugy, former director of WADA accredited Laboratory of Lausanne (LAD) and current Director the of the Center of Research and Expertise in anti-doping sciences (REDs) of the University of Lausanne, disputes allegations of misconduct against the Lausanne laboratory, contained in the McLaren reports.

A formal request to WADA has been made in the letter to attached documentation available to the Public to restore the reputation of the Laboratory of Lausanne as well the one of its former Director, Prof. Martial Saugy.

Further information can be viewed at or




Sample in Lausanne

A two-day International Conference on "Implementation of Latest Guidelines in Human and Horse Doping: Interaction between Testing Authorities and Doping Control Laboratories" was organized by National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL), India at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India on the 4th & 5th of November, 2016 with a focus on interaction between Testing Authorities and Doping Control Laboratories which included representatives from  World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), South East Asian Regional Anti-Doping Agency (SEA-RADO), National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) of India, Srilanka, Indonesia, Kazakhstan & Singapore, Indian Pharmacopeia Commission (IPC), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Horse Racing Clubs, etc. The conference was attended by approximately hundred participants, both national and international, from various countries viz. Canada, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

The first day of the conference i.e. 4th November, 2016 commenced with Special Address delivered by Secretary, Sports & CEO, NDTL Shri Rajiv Yadav. Guests of Honor for the conference were Shri Navin Agarwal, Director General, NADA, Dr. Olivier Rabin, Senior Director Science, WADA, Dr. Alka Beotra, Former Scientific Director, NDTL, and Dr. Shila Jain, Laboratory Director, NDTL.

The First Session of the Conference was on the Second Meeting of WADA & Pharmaceutical Companies. The talk of Dr. Olivier Rabin on “Collaboration between the Biopharmaceutical Industry and Anti-Doping” proved highly beneficial. The session also included open discussions on the Role of Pharmaceutical Industry towards fight against doping in sports, way forward and conclusion with active participation by experts from different fields.

In the second session of the conference, talks were delivered on various important themes like Prohibited Substances and Methods in doping by Dr. Olivier Rabin, accreditation of WADA laboratories by Ms Victoria Ivanova, pseudo endogenous steroids in anti-doping analyses by Dr. Xavier de la Torre Fornell and NADO-RADO collaboration with laboratories by Mr. Gobinathan Nair.

The third session of the conference, conducted on the 5th of November, 2016 included Panel Discussions on reporting and result management in horse dope testing, use of ADAMS for result management, implementation of WADA guidelines from NADO’s perspectives, implementation  of WADA TDSSA (testing of ESAs and GHRHs) and drug administration studies & use of herbs in horse racing.

The Conference concluded with vote of thanks by Dr. Alka Beotra, valuable suggestions by the invited speakers, positive feedback by the participants, and fresh ideas by scientists and professionals for incorporation to make the fight against doping in sports more effective.

Dr. Alka Beotra with experts for Open discussion with Pharmaceutical Companies
Dignitaries on Dias at the Inauguration of First International Conference organised by NDTL
Group Photo of First International Conference on "Implementation of latest guidelines in human and horse doping
NDTL Scientists with pioneers in the field of Anti-Doping