T Nation

Cobalt Doping...Anyone?

News to me - but curious to know if anyone out there has thoughts on this? Remembering that medical authorities say testosterone will lead to deep vein hypogonadic-sclerotic cancer, the warnings here ring a little hollow.

J Occup Med Toxicol. 2006 Jul 24;1:18.
Blood doping by cobalt. Should we measure cobalt in athletes?

Lippi G, Franchini M, Guidi GC.

Istituto di Chimica e Microscopia Clinica, Dipartimento di Scienze Morfologico-Biomediche, Universita degli Studi di Verona, Verona, Italy. ulippi@tin.it.

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Blood doping is commonplace in competitive athletes who seek to enhance their aerobic performances through illicit techniques. PRESENTATION OF THE HYPOTHESIS: Cobalt, a naturally-occurring element with properties similar to those of iron and nickel, induces a marked and stable polycythemic response through a more efficient transcription of the erythropoietin gene. TESTING THE HYPOTHESIS: Although little information is available so far on cobalt metabolism, reference value ranges or supplementation in athletes, there is emerging evidence that cobalt is used as a supplement and increased serum concentrations are occasionally observed in athletes. Therefore, given the athlete's connatural inclination to experiment with innovative, unfair and potentially unhealthy doping techniques, cobalt administration might soon become the most suited complement or surrogate for erythropoiesis-stimulating substances. Nevertheless, cobalt administration is not free from unsafe consequences, which involve toxic effects on heart, liver, kidney, thyroid and cancer promotion. IMPLICATIONS OF THE HYPOTHESIS: Cobalt is easily purchasable, inexpensive and not currently comprehended within the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. Moreover, available techniques for measuring whole blood, serum, plasma or urinary cobalt involve analytic approaches which are currently not practical for antidoping laboratories. Thus more research on cobalt metabolism in athletes is compelling, along with implementation of effective strategies to unmask this potentially deleterious doping practice.

I’m surprised the article didn’t say it, but the method of choice to increase athlete’s cobalt levels is through vitamin B12 injections. Measuring cobalt concentrations after the fact could theoretically measure B12 status I’d imagine. B12 injections aren’t illegal. I’m not sure what the author is getting at, unless I missed something here.

Maybe the concern is that B12 injections might actually confer a real advantage, I guess through this mechanism of enhancing erythrocyte production. In that case, if WADA decides to go after it, monitoring cobalt levels might be the way to test for B12.

Hilarious. B12 shots.

Doping or dopes? This is very much the latter. Especially those in lab coats.