26th July 2018

WADA 2017 test figures part 2: Anabolics make up almost half of AAFs

Anabolic agents were detected in 1,813 adverse analytical findings (AAFs, or positive tests) during 2017, almost half (44.5%) of the 4,076 AAFs entered by laboratories into the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS). As in 2016, the anabolic agent that was most prolific in returning AAFs was stanozolol, however ten less AAFs were reported for the substance than during 2017.

During 2017, staonazolol replaced meldonium as the most common AAF reported into ADAMS by laboratories. As WADA announced, a decline in the number of AAFs reported for meldonium (79 in 2017 compared to 515 in 2016) led to hormone and metabolic modulators slipping from second in the table during 2016 to fourth during 2017. 

Meldonium, largely used in Russia and eastern European countries, was added to the 2016 Prohibited List in September 2015. The large number of meldonium AAFs during 2016 was due to a lack of awareness that the substance had been added to the List, combined with confusion over excretion times – in other words, how long it can still be detected after an athlete has taken it. A number of AAFs had to be rescinded, after athletes proved that they had taken the substance before it became prohibited on 1 January 2016.

In the diuretics and masking agents category, a rise in the number of furosemide AAFs led it to replace hydrochlorothiazide as the substance responsible for the most AAFs entered by laboratories. In the stimulants category, methylphenidate replaced amphetamine as the substance responsible for the most AAFs.

The 2017 Testing Figures Report (PDF below) also outlines that Gas chromatography combustion isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/C/IRMS) analysis of samples is also returning AAFs. For example, the Beijing Laboratory analysed seven in competition urine samples for 19‐norandrosterone using GC/C/IRMS, and six resulted in an AAF. The Cologne Laboratory analysed 14 urine samples for boldenone metabolites using GC/C/IRMS, and eight returned an AAF.

GC/C/IRMS analysis was also conducted on impressive numbers of urine samples for erythropoiesis stimulating agents (EPAs), which includes EPO. The Cologne Laboratory analysed over 6,000 urine samples using this method. Most laboratories across the globe reported that between 0% and 0.4% of samples analysed returned an AAF, however the Beijing Laboratory analysed 2,042 samples using this method, resulting in 17 AAFs (1%).

Largely because of the decline in meldonium AAFs, the number of AAFs entered by laboratories into ADAMS declined by 3.7% from 4,234 during 2016 to 4,076 during 2017. In total, the number of AAFs declined by 4.7% from 4,822 during 2016 to 4,596 in 2017. As shown in the table on the right, this final figure presented by WADA is calculated using the total AAFs reported in both Olympic and non-Olympic sports into ADAMS. In some cases, the sanctioning authority rather than the laboratory may enter the AAF into ADAMS, which explains the discrepancy between the figures.

It is important to point out that an AAF represents a positive test for a prohibited substance from an athlete’s A sample, and does not necessarily reflect an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV). The AAF could be identified as a discrepancy should the athlete’s B sample not return the same result; or could be explained by the athlete holding a valid Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) to use a Prohibited Substance.

• This article is the second part of a three-part analysis of WADA’s 2017 Testing Figures Report. To view analysis of the AAFs reported by sport, click here. To view analysis of the samples and AAFs reported by Laboratories in 2017, click here.

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