Working Groups

The PCC recognizes that much of our most significant impact occurs at the intersection of a variety of scientific fields from hematology to chemistry and supports collaboration through our working groups. The working groups supplement the PCC’s individual investigator-based research grants and address specific needs and requirements for new developments in the field of anti-doping research. Current working groups involve growth hormone biomarker validation, oral fluid and dried blood spot sampling and the detection of erythropoietin (EPO). Without the directed and dedicated resources of the PCC Working Groups, inter-disciplinary, problem-based collaborations of this nature, and their subsequent contributions to anti-doping science, are likely to remain unrealized.

Chair: Dr. Matt Fedoruk

A field trial was conducted in the Arizona Fall League and the Dominican Republic during which athletes tested a self-administered dried blood spot collection device as an alternative means of blood collection. After the collection, athletes were asked to provide feedback regarding the ease of use of the device, the speed of collection, and whether or not they preferred this self-collection to the standard venipunctures used to collect blood. 211/212 (99.5%) athletes preferred this collection method. Results are promising, and it is evident that growth hormone can be detected following extraction of a single 20 µL spot of dried blood.

Chairs: Dr. Mike Sawka, Dr. Steve Elliott

With a goal to identify and develop strategies to identify athletes employing blood doping (Autologous or Homologous Transfusion, Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents), PHWG members evaluate individual Red Blood Cell (RBC) or Reticulocyte Patterns for changes in Age Biomarkers/RBC Size Distribution/Hemoglobin Content Distribution/Hemoglobin Variants, etc. Techniques include Flow Cytometry and Machine Learning, evaluating the efficacy of existing biomarkers (such as cell surface markers, circulating biomarkers, and iron related biomarkers in body fluids), and developing strategies to identify new biomarkers (such as metabolomics or transcriptomics).

Chair: Dr. Andy Hoofnagle

P-III-NP is the second biomarker used in the anti-doping test for human growth hormone. It is currently measured using commercial blood tests (immunoassays) that, due to variability in the manufacturing process, change from time to time, which forces laboratories to perform expensive experiments to make the new results match the old. The PCC funded the development of a new method in the Cowan laboratory that uses an antibody to grab onto the protein to pull it down and then an enzyme to cut the protein into pieces (i.e., it is a digestion-dependent method). The pieces are then measured by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, which is the same technology used in anti-doping laboratories for many other blood and urine tests. The PCC also funded the Hoofnagle Laboratory to invent reagents that could grab onto and pull down specific pieces of the protein (peptides) after cutting the protein into pieces while it is still in the blood sample These new antibodies can now be used to measure different parts of the collagen molecule and will be complementary to the assay being developed in the London laboratory.

Chairs: Dr. Matt Fedoruk, Dr. Jim Dalton

The Reference Materials Working Group (RMWG) was formed to identify the need, production, distribution and monitoring of certified reference standards that are critical to the confirmation analyses conducted by the ~30 WADA-accredited laboratories globally. Without certified reference standards, important confirmation analyses could be halted or delayed. The current reference material landscape is fragmented and there is significant risk of a reference standard becoming unavailable. It is also important that reference material be available at a reasonable cost to the laboratories. The RMWG will encourage those with technical expertise to apply directly to the PCC for grant funds to produce material or reach out to specific suppliers directly to coordinate production. SMRTL has agreed in principle to reserve space for PCC-produced reference material storage in their new laboratory facilities.