Analysis of cobalt for human sports drug testing purposes using ICP- and LC-ICP-MS

Analysis of cobalt for human sports drug testing purposes using ICP- and LC-ICP-MS / Andre Knoop, Peter Planitz, Bernhard Wüst, Mario Thevis. - (Drug Testing and Analysis 12 (2020) 11-12 (November-December); p. 1666-1672). - Special Issue: The 38th Manfred Donike workshop on doping analysis

  • PMID: 33142033
  • DOI: 10.1002/dta.2962


Due to the current demands in the fight against manipulation of blood and blood components, commonly referred to as "blood doping" in sports drug testing, specific and sensitive detection methods enabling the detection of prohibited substances and methods of doping are required. Similar to illicit blood transfusions, erythropoiesis stimulating agents have been shown to be misused in sport, aiming at improving an athlete's aerobic capacity and endurance performance. Amongst other strategies, the administration of ionic cobalt (Co2+ ) can increase the number of erythrocytes by stimulating the endogenous erythropoietin (EPO) biosynthesis. Conversely, several organic Co-containing compounds such as cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12) are not prohibited in sports, and thus, an analytical differentiation of permitted and banned contributions to urinary Co-concentrations is desirable. An excretion study with daily applications of either 1 mg of CoCl2 or 1 mg of cyanocobalamin was conducted with 20 volunteers over a period of 14 consecutive days. Urine, plasma, and concentrated red blood cells were analyzed for their cobalt content. The samples were collected starting 7 days before the administration until 7 days after. Total Co concentrations were analyzed by using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), which yielded significantly elevated levels exclusively after inorganic cobalt intake. Furthermore, a liquid chromatography (LC)-ICP-MS approach was established and employed for the simultaneous determination of organically bound and inorganic cobalt by chromatographic separation within one single run. The analytical approach offers the option to further develop detection methods of illegal Co2+ supplementation in sport.

Original document


Research / Study
3 November 2020
Knoop, Andre
Planitz, Peter
Thevis, Mario
Wüst, Bernhard
Other organisations
Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln (DSHS) - German Sport University Cologne
European Monitoring Center for Emerging Doping Agents (EuMoCEDA)
Analytical aspects
Mass spectrometry analysis
Testing method development
Doping classes
M1. Manipulation Of Blood And Blood Components
S2. Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors
Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) activating agents
Document category
Scientific article
Document type
Pdf file
Date generated
22 February 2021
Date of last modification
3 March 2021
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