WADA highlights impact of funded scientific research study in improving detection methods for doping in sport


The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is pleased to highlight the impact that a recent WADA-funded scientific research initiative is having in improving detection methods for doping in sport.

WADA’s commitment to scientific research shines through in a study, which was published in July 2022, entitled Detection of erythropoiesis stimulating agent Luspatercept after administration to healthy volunteers for antidoping purposes[1]. This study is a collaboration between Laboratoire AntiDopage Français-Université Paris-Saclay (LADF) in Paris, France and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) in Salt Lake City, USA -- which are both WADA-accredited laboratories.

Luspatercept is used to treat anemia and its role in enhancing maturation of red blood cells can be linked to performance enhancement. This means that the risk of misuse by some athletes for doping purposes is significant. The study notably showed that luspatercept was readily detectable post-administration for several weeks using various electrophoretic methods. With the addition of luspatercept detection to the screening methods by WADA-accredited laboratories, the probability of detecting athletes using this substance will be very high thanks to the long window of detection.

WADA Senior Director, Science and Medicine, Dr. Olivier Rabin, said: “The World Anti-Doping Agency is committed to pursuing innovative scientific research initiatives. The luspatercept study conducted by the Laboratoire AntiDopage Français-Université Paris-Saclay and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory is a good example of the impact of WADA’s scientific research program. It highlights the ability of WADA and our partners to collaborate with the biopharmaceutical industry and WADA-accredited laboratories to develop and improve detection methods.”

“The luspatercept study was submitted following WADA’s 2020 call for proposals. This study, along with hundreds of others that WADA has funded since its founding in 1999, demonstrates the importance of the work being carried out by the Agency’s Science and Medicine Department to stimulate and secure funding for collaborative research efforts.”

“We are pleased that, in May 2022, WADA’s Foundation Board approved increases to WADA’s overall budget for 2023-2025, which will increase funding for scientific research. With this additional funding, we will be able to attract more high-level researchers and increase the volume of research dedicated to strengthening the global anti-doping system.”

LADF Director, Dr. Magnus Ericsson, said: “The Laboratoire AntiDopage Français-Université Paris-Saclay is continually striving to improve its methods and detection tools in its mission to ensure fair competition and protect the health of athletes around the world. The funding provided by WADA for scientific research allows us to effectively analyze emerging doping substances and work alongside partners like the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory.”

SMRTL President, Dr. Daniel Eichner, said: “The Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory prides itself on being a leader in detecting the use of performance enhancing substances in sport through excellent scientific practices backed by innovative research and development. WADA’s funding of scientific research plays a key role in this regard, and also provides opportunities to work collaboratively with partners like the Laboratoire AntiDopage Français-Université Paris-Saclay on important projects like the luspatercept study.”

More on the luspatercept study

The objective of the study was to perform the first administration of luspatercept in healthy volunteers for anti-doping purposes and to evaluate the detectability in serum, dried capillary blood spots (DBS) and urine.

WADA became aware of luspatercept several years ago and added it to its List of Prohibited Substances and Methods in 2017. The substance was only recently approved for medical use (by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2019 and European Medicines Agency in 2020). However, WADA-accredited laboratories had already begun working on detection methods for some time before that. The recent approvals by health authorities allowed the laboratories to confirm detection after administration to healthy volunteers. 

About WADA’s Scientific Research Grant Program

Since 2001, WADA has committed more than USD 86.5 million to helping researchers around the world study a range of important topics to advance anti-doping science. Read more about WADA’s Scientific Research Grant Program.

[1] Marchand A, Miller G, Martin L, Gobbo C, Crouch AK, Eichner D, Ericsson M