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Biological Chemistry

Black-Market Androgen

Andarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator, is the latest in a line of drugs abused by elite athletes

by Stephen K. Ritter
November 23, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 47

Chemical sleuths from the German Sport University Cologne have uncovered clandestine distribution of andarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) that is the latest in a line of performance-enhancing drugs abused by elite athletes (Drug Test. Anal. 2009, 1, 387). Some SARMs such as andarine belong to a family of nonsteroidal arylpropionamides that are as potent as testosterone in building and maintaining muscle but without the common steroid-associated side effects. Several of the compounds are in clinical trials for treating debilitating age-related maladies ranging from osteoporosis to muscle-wasting associated with cancer and other diseases (J. Med. Chem. 2009, 52, 3597). The World Anti-Doping Agency preemptively banned SARMs for athlete use in January 2008. The research team, led by Mario Thevis, found an ad for SARMs and placed an order with an Internet supplier, which shipped a sample in unlabeled vials in a package marked green tea extract and face moisturizer. The researchers used liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry to identify andarine as the active ingredient, along with an amino analog as a major impurity. “Our study demonstrates once more that the misuse of therapeutics without clinical approval by athletes cannot be dismissed,” Thevis says.


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