Canadian scientists uncovered a new steroid designed to avoid detection in standard drug tests, but say they found no evidence it was used by athletes.
WADA science director Olivier Rabin said the drug had similarities to THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone (search), a drug at the heart of the BALCO steroid investigation in the United States.
Several track and field stars, including sprinters Kelli White and Dwain Chambers, were banned after THG was unmasked in 2003. Four men face charges of distributing steroids to elite athletes in the case involving the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.
Rabin and Christiane Ayotte, director of Montreal's anti-doping lab, said there was no evidence DMT has been used by athletes. They touted the finding as a pre-emptive victory against drug cheats.
"Probably in this case we are ahead of the dopers," Rabin said in a conference call from WADA headquarters in Montreal. "This shows to the dopers how serious we are."
The investigation began last year after Canadian customs officials seized substances coming across the border from the United States. WADA received an anonymous e-mail in June tipping off the agency to the material seized in the raid.
Officials of WADA and the Montreal lab got in touch with Canadian customs and worked together to identify the substance last summer.
"We believe this was developed for the sole purpose of doping in sport," Rabin said. "We now have proof that THG was not a unique case. We now have proof that there are other designer drugs."
Ayotte said DMT consisted of a dangerous mixture of potentially toxic substances. Tests are continuing to identify the drug's properties and determine how it enhances athletic performance.
Ayotte said the Montreal lab retested thousands of urine samples from athletes in professional and Olympic sports, but found no use of DMT.
Though its creator apparently thought DMT could not be detected, Ayotte said it likely would have shown up in drug tests because it contained markers of detectable steroids.
Ayotte said there was no need to retest samples from the Athens Olympics or other events for DMT.
"We think this substance hasn't been used," she said. "We would have found it if it had been. For us DMT was caught in time."
Rabin said WADA tried to track down the whistleblower but the e-mails could not be traced.
Rabin and Ayotte said WADA was tracking other designer steroids, but declined to elaborate.
THG was unmasked after an anonymous track coach, later identified as Trevor Graham, sent a syringe to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The drug was identified and a test developed by researchers from the UCLA anti-doping lab.