THE DANGERS OF PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS
Professor Alan Wu, Ph.D.,
ROA / MOAA Luncheon Speaker – 16 June 2016
International tennis star Maria Sharapova has been suspended for two years after testing positive for meldonium after losing to Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarterfinals. She has been labeled “the sole author of her own misfortune” because she hid regular pre-match use of a newly banned substance from anti-doping authorities and members of her team. She said she would appeal what she called “an unfairly harsh” punishment to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The drug, used to treat heart disease, helps to increase the blood flow as well as increase the flow of oxygen throughout the body.
The ROA Chapter #63 June luncheon speaker was Professor Alan Wu, Ph.D. who provided an illustrated presentation, “Clinical Laboratory Testing for Performance Enhancing Drugs,” telling a series of stories, an eye-opening revelation about the world of drugs and hormones. A rogue chemist creates an empire to support the needs of illegal drug users consisting of athletes seeking to enhance performance, women trying to stay young, men trying to stay virile, and drug addicts trying to avoid detection. Ripped from headline news, the stories documented how illegal substances affect the lives of many individuals wanting to get an edge.
Walt, a high school chemistry teacher develops lung cancer. His wife wants the best therapy irrespective of the costs and they go outside their HMO network. Using his organic chemistry synthesis knowledge, Walt works with a former student to manufacture and sell high purity methamphetamine. Bad things happen from there.
Calvin, a lab technologist, is trying to catch Jaco, a bus driver who is adulterating his urine so that he can pass his drug test. Calvin’s failure to catch Jaco’s practices leads to a catastrophic event. Jaco consistently produces dilute urine; against drug testing rules, Calvin begins investigations on his own. He evaporates the urine and retests it for THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s effects, and the newly concentrated sample turns positive. Jaco is driving the school bus one day under the influence when he has a serious accident. What happens to Jaco as an aftermath of the accident is surprising.
In 1971 President Nixon directed testing of Vietnam service members for rehab–THC and heroin were commonly used; in 1973 42% of personnel in Vietnam used opiates; in 1974 DoD established a random testing policy; in 1983 a commission determined that testing did not meet forensic standards; in 1986 testing of all federal civilians was mandated; in 1989 8.9% of service members used in last 30 days; by 2008 2.3% of service members used in the last 30 days.
Dr. Wu told of procedures developed to escape detection and/or produce false negatives using a variety of urine adulterants; that is, the tampering of a urine specimen with the intention of altering the test results. Substitution, obtaining drug-free urine from the internet, also was described.
In another story, Calvin begins working out in a gym and finds out about hGH, growth hormones and soon the Test Me company begins making and selling hGH to weight lifters. Meanwhile Anna, a 26 year-old starlet marries an 82 year-old billionaire. A few years later the oil tycoon dies (natural) and his children contest their father’s will. Anna, now in her 30s wants to get back to Hollywood and buys hGH from Test Me. A few years later she develops bone cancer. So many stories….
There’s a lot of mystery involved with detection of performance enhancing drug use and perhaps there should be a television series on chemical lab science, “Clinical Lab Investigation,” with Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, or even Julia Roberts playing the role of Dr. Wu. Every week there would be an exciting new episode based on real-world stories.
Dr. Wu, Professor, Laboratory Medicine Department, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, is the author of a number of highly acclaimed books including Toxicology: Because What You Don’t Know Can Kill You; The Hidden Assassin: When Clinical Lab Tests Go Awry; Microbiology: Because What You Don’t Know Will Kill You; Performance Enhancing Drugs and Adulterants: The Hidden Assassin II. The books, generally paperback and inexpensive can be purchased at http://www.alanhbwu.com/
After confirming that use of performance enhancing drugs is widespread today, Dr. Wu said, “I’m not worried about professional athletes so much as I am high school students. They just want to look good. They can get themselves into a lot of trouble using banned and very dangerous substances to do it.”
SOURCE: Luncheon Speaker