OMICS-strategies and methods in the fight against doping

Forensic Sci Int. 2011 Dec 10;213(1-3):20-34. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2011.07.031. Epub 2011 Aug 20.


During the past decade OMICS-methods not only continued to have their impact on research strategies in life sciences and in particular molecular biology, but also started to be used for anti-doping control purposes. Research activities were mainly reasoned by the fact that several substances and methods, which were prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), were or still are difficult to detect by direct methods. Transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics in theory offer ideal platforms for the discovery of biomarkers for the indirect detection of the abuse of these substances and methods. Traditionally, the main focus of transcriptomics and proteomics projects has been on the prolonged detection of the misuse of human growth hormone (hGH), recombinant erythropoietin (rhEpo), and autologous blood transfusion. An additional benefit of the indirect or marker approach would also be that similarly acting substances might then be detected by a single method, without being forced to develop new direct detection methods for new but comparable prohibited substances (as has been the case, e.g. for the various forms of Epo analogs and biosimilars). While several non-OMICS-derived parameters for the indirect detection of doping are currently in use, for example the blood parameters of the hematological module of the athlete's biological passport, the outcome of most non-targeted OMICS-projects led to no direct application in routine doping control so far. The main reason is the inherent complexity of human transcriptomes, proteomes, and metabolomes and their inter-individual variability. The article reviews previous and recent research projects and their results and discusses future strategies for a more efficient application of OMICS-methods in doping control.

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anabolic Agents / blood
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Blood Transfusion, Autologous
  • Doping in Sports*
  • Erythropoietin / administration & dosage
  • Erythropoietin / blood
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genomics
  • Human Growth Hormone / administration & dosage
  • Human Growth Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Metabolomics
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / administration & dosage
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / blood
  • Proteomics
  • Publishing
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Recombinant Proteins / blood
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Transcriptome


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Erythropoietin
  • Human Growth Hormone