While Don Catlin, M.D., was a UCLA professor, his lifelong interest in drug abuse expanded to doping in sports. He joined the UCLA School of Medicine faculty in 1972 and founded the UCLA Olympic Laboratory in 1982 to run the doping control tests for the 1984 Olympics. The lab's service group provided urine tests and drug education to national and international sports organizations, including the U.S. Olympic Committee (since 1985), NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association, since 1986), NFL (National Football League, since 1990), National Center for Drug Free Sport (since 1999, runs the NCAA program), U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (since 2000, runs the U.S. Olympic Committee program), and Minor League Baseball (since 2004). To conduct sports doping control testing, the lab's scientists were required to master analytical chemistry, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, as well as legal and ethical issues.
Because competitors who cheat often try to use scientific and medical advances to their advantage, doping control tests require constant research and development to keep up. Dr. Catlin’s research has made it possible to crack a host of designer steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs used to try to avoid detection. Such drugs include the steroids norbolethone (2002), THG (tetrahydrogestrinone, 2003), and madol (2004), as well as darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp®, 2002), a drug that had barely been approved by the FDA. These widely acclaimed achievements required pooling expertise internally—analytical and synthetic chemistry, as well as molecular biology—and externally with lawyers and sports administrators.
The research group also pursued interests in the clinical pharmacology (or fate inside the body) of anabolic androgenic steroids (male hormones, synthetic and natural) and of erythropoietic proteins (blood boosters), applying its expertise with clinical trials, body fluids analysis, GC-MS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry), LC-MS (liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry), carbon isotope ratio mass spectrometry, and isoelectric focusing.
Projects included estimating the metabolic clearance and production rate of testosterone by intravenous infusions of deuterium-labeled testosterone, determining the pharmacokinetics of steroids such as androstenedione (“andro,” formerly sold over the counter) and DHEA (still sold
over the counter), and using carbon isotope ratio techniques to determine the source (synthetic or natural) of plasma and urine steroids.