The breakthrough in identifying synthetic testosterone -- made from extracts of yams and soybeans -- is one more example of how drug testers are using advances in technology to close in on cheats. "They use this very exotic and specific test, and it doesn't tell any lies," said John Brennan, group director of clinical development at Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which manufacturers a testosterone gel.
Pharmaceutical companies use plant extract to manufacture synthetic testosterone because it is less expensive than reconstructing the human hormone. The UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory has gone as far as to prepare for the I-ate-yams-for-dinner defense -- figuring out how many it would take to trigger a positive test. Don Catlin of UCLA declined to divulge the number. "I'm sure we will see it used, but they won't get too far," he said.