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Controlling the misuse of cobalt in horses.

Drug testing and analysis (2014-09-27)
Emmie N M Ho, George H M Chan, Terence S M Wan, Peter Curl, Christopher M Riggs, Michael J Hurley, David Sykes
ABSTRACT

Cobalt is a well-established inducer of hypoxia-like responses, which can cause gene modulation at the hypoxia inducible factor pathway to induce erythropoietin transcription. Cobalt salts are orally active, inexpensive, and easily accessible. It is an attractive blood doping agent for enhancing aerobic performance. Indeed, recent intelligence and investigations have confirmed cobalt was being abused in equine sports. In this paper, population surveys of total cobalt in raceday samples were conducted using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Urinary threshold of 75 ng/mL and plasma threshold of 2 ng/mL could be proposed for the control of cobalt misuse in raceday or in-competition samples. Results from administration trials with cobalt-containing supplements showed that common supplements could elevate urinary and plasma cobalt levels above the proposed thresholds within 24 h of administration. It would therefore be necessary to ban the use of cobalt-containing supplements on raceday as well as on the day before racing in order to implement and enforce the proposed thresholds. Since the abuse with huge quantities of cobalt salts can be done during training while the use of legitimate cobalt-containing supplements are also allowed, different urinary and plasma cobalt thresholds would be required to control cobalt abuse in non-raceday or out-of-competition samples. This could be achieved by setting the thresholds above the maximum urinary and plasma cobalt concentrations observed or anticipated from the normal use of legitimate cobalt-containing supplements. Urinary threshold of 2000 ng/mL and plasma threshold of 10 ng/mL were thus proposed for the control of cobalt abuse in non-raceday or out-of-competition samples.

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