September 25, 2020

Cyclist Marta Bastianelli Uses Benfluorex Unaware of Similarities to Banned Substance

Italian cyclist Marta Bastianelli tested positive for a banned stimulant. She tested positive for the diet drug fenfluramine in a doping control conducted by the International Cycling Union (UCI) at the “Under-23 World Championships” in Verbania, Italy on July 5, 2008.

Bastianelli claims she never knowingly ingested a banned substance. She admitted to her obsession with weight control stating “I wanted to lose weight, like any girl.” She consulted with her doctor to find weight loss products that were not on the WADA banned substance list. Her doctor prescribed the drug Benfluorex. Benfluorex is an anti-diabetic drug that improves insulin sensitivity and glycemic control; as such it is often prescribed for weight loss. Benfluorex is not on the WADA banned substance list but it is structurally similar to Fenfluramine (which is listed) [Read more…]

Use of Biosimilar EPO Agents Widespread at 2008 Tour de France

A BBC investigation suggests that most athletes who use recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) continue to get away with it. The investigative article reveals several reasons why the EPO test is failing. But the BBC revealed that the biggest problem is not the ineffectiveness of the existing EPO tests used by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). It is a lack of testing for variants of EPO.

Athletes are using various “biosimilar” EPO agents for which WADA has not yet developed a detection method. WADA’s ballyhooed test for the previously undetectable Mircera (pegylated EPO) was an admission that the already flawed existing EPO test was unable to detect variants of EPO; the announcement of the new CERA (Mircera) test at the 2008 Tour de France was considered a major victory.

There are also dozens of “copycat” or “biosimilar” versions of EPO. These are variants of EPO that are produced by different methods or exist as slightly different biological forms of EPO e.g. darbepoetin alfa, epoetin alfa, epoetin beta, epoetin gamma, epoetin delta, epoetin epsilon, epoetin zeta, epoetin theta, epoetin kappa, epoetin omega. The existence of biosimilar versions of EPO is a major problem for drug testers [Read more…]

Spanish Doctor Implicated in Doping Scandal – "Germans Want to Shit on the Spaniards"

Spanish doctor Marcos Maynar Mariño sent an email offering comprehensive urinalysis and steroid profiling at 50 euros per athlete to as many as ten professional cycling teams including Gerolsteiner, Milram, CSC and Columbia . Maynar offered to provide a complete analysis consistent with the same control methods used by the International Cycling Union (UCI). The services would be conducted by the Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry at the Faculty of Sciences at the Universidad de Extremadura in Cáceres, Spain (“Dos médicos españoles, acusados de dopar,” July 20).

According to the German television station ARD, Spanish doctor Marcos Maynar offered these services as for internal testing allowing athletes to monitor their doping to ensure that their use of performance enhancing drugs would not be detected by doping controls at the 2008 Tour de France and other pro cycling events. Maynar responded to the allegations that he aided and abetted doping by suggesting that ARD had ulterior motives stemming from bitterness over disgraced cyclist Jan Ullrich (“Marcos Maynar niega que quiera favorecer el dopaje,” July 21).

“Since Jan Ullrich’s tested positive, the Germans have wanted to shit on the Spaniards.”

[Read more…]

Legality of Anti-Doping Test for Mircera at 2008 Tour de France

The French National Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) has been utlizing a secret new anti-doping test for a previously undetectable performance-enhancing drug during the 2008 Tour de France. Rumors about a test for Mircera started circulating when cyclist Riccardo Ricco failed his doping protocol. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) quickly confirmed the rumors.

WADA gave notice to cyclists competing at the 2008 Tour de France that they were now able to detect the performance enhancing drug Mircera (methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta), a third generation version of erythropoietin (EPO) belonging to the category of drugs known as Continuous Erythropoeitin Receptor Activators (CERA).

Doping experts concerned with the fairness of the doping protocols administered by WADA-accredited labs were quick to raise questions about the new CERA doping detection methods [Read more…]

Professional Cycling is Synonymous with Doping

Rant’s Daniel Rosen asked the question “Will it ever be possible to have a Tour de France… that is completely free of doping?” I would answer that with a definitive no – not now, not ever. Professional cycling is an extreme sport that is practically synonymous with doping.

Steroid and doping expert Dr. John Hoberman of the University of Texas wrote an article about the Festina scandal at the 1998 Tour de France for me almost ten years ago. Hoberman thought that the public had finally accepted that the Tour de France during a “definitive outing of the Tour as a virtual pharmacy on wheels.”

The Tour debacle has finally made it acceptable to say in public and without provocation what many have known for a long time, namely, that long-distance cycling has been the most consistently drug-soaked sport of the twentieth century. 

Unfortunately, we still have not come to terms with an acknowledgement of the scope of doping in cycling. We continue to entertain incredulous stories that doping in the sport is limited to certain generations of riders or specific geographical areas. We still believe in fairy tales that tell us a dope-free Tour de France is possible. It is not. So what should be done about doping in cycling? [Read more…]

Blame Spain for Doping in the Tour de France

The desperation in professional cycling is increasing as commentators try to explain away the pervasive doping problems in the sport. At the onset of the 2008 Tour de France, the doping problem was characterized as a generational issue. The “old cycling” versus “new cycling” story was bolstered when 37-year old Miguel Beltran tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO). Beltran represented the old school generation that was to blame for systematic doping in the sport. The story offered hope for a clean drug-free sport with the emergence of several young, talented riders that represented “new cycling.” (“Riccò case a setback for ‘new cycling’,” July 17)

Faith in the new generation of cycling was shattered when Riccardo Ricco tested positive for EPO and the new CERA drug Mircera.  How could the story of “new cycling” explain why the 24-year old leader of the best young rider competition was doping just the same as the old generation of cycling? The old generation could no longer be blamed for the scourge of doping in cycling. Cycling needed a new story!

The Scotsman was happy to provide a new story to preserve the integrity of the Tour: Blame the country of Spain for doping problems in cycling! If Spain were eliminated from world maps, the Tour de France would apparently be a very clean sport. How did the Scotsman arrive at this conclusion? [Read more…]

Riccardo Ricco Tests Positive for Undetectable New Drug Mircera at 2008 Tour de France

Cyclist Riccardo Ricco of the Saunier Duval-Scott team tested positive for the new performance enhancing drug Mircera (methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta) at the 2008 Tour de France. Ricco is a top cyclist on the Tour and the King of the Mountains and White Jersey leader.

Mircera is a third generation version of erythropoietin manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-LaRoche that has been called “Super EPO.” The big news at the Tour is not that another cyclist was caught doping, it is that a cyclist was caught using a performance enhancing drug that was widely considered “undetectable.” The quick withdrawal of the entire Saunier Duval team from the Tour supports speculation that Mircera was the team’s secret weapon (“Riccardo Riccò tests positive; Saunier Duval team withdraws from Tour de France,” July 17).

Recent rumors in the sport had suggested that some riders were using an undetectable new oxygen-enhancing drug widely thought to be Roche’s Micera. The existence of a test for CERA was not announced, but Riccò’s positive for the substance suggests that it has not escaped the attention of anti-doping officials.

[Read more…]

Proposal for Major Steroid League Baseball

Mike Markson has an interesting proposal for confronting the problem of anabolic steroids (and performance enhancing drugs) in baseball – “let them cheat.” His steroid comments were included in suggestions to make baseball more exciting.

I started thinking, if I was to come up with a baseball variant to try and take on MLB, what would it look like? Well, it would be baseball, but, I’d market it as a faster, more exciting version. I’d make the following rules changes to try and re-enforce the brand […]

No steroid testing. Leave that for the cops. This is baseball – let’s the conversation revolve around the action on the field, not off of it.

In a previous post, Markson expands on his feelings about steroids in sports with some insightful comments on the issue. [Read more…]

USADA Longitudinal Testing Program – Project Believe

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has been conducting a formerly secret pilot program for longitudinal testing for anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. USADA recruited twelve U.S. athletes for voluntary participation in “Project Believe.” News of the anti-doping program was leaked when decathlon champion Brian Clay and runner Allyson Felix discussed it at a press conference possibly violating USADA’s code of secrecy on the program (“US sports stars try to dim doping fears with ‘Project Believe’,” April 17).

“I may get in trouble for talking about it but I want people to know I’m doing everything in my power to stay clean,” said Clay, who began having extra tests done before last month’s world indoor championships.

In spite of Clay’s concerns, it is unlikely that Clay or Felix will face any sanctions by USADA for revealing the existence of “Project Believe” prior to its official launch. [Read more…]

Cyclist Jan Ullrich Pays Fine for Defrauding Public by Doping

Since doping is not a crime in Germany, German prosecutors sued cyclist Jan Ullrich for fraud based on evidence of the use of banned blood doping and performance-enhancing drugs (“Jan Ullrich draws 1M euro fine in doping fraud case,” April 12).

Disgraced former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich is to pay out a million euro fine to end a fraud case which German prosecutors have been investigating, Focus news magazine reported on its Web site Saturday.

Prosecutors accused the 1997 Tour de France winner of taking performance-enhancing drugs, leading under German law to fraud charges against the 34-year-old on the basis he deceived the public, sponsors and his team.

The United States does not have laws that specifically criminalize doping in sports. However, the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990, passed as a direct result of doping scandals in sports, criminalizes the non-medical uses of anabolic-androgenic steroids. One of the primary objectives for the act has been to combat “cheating” in sports although it has been largely ineffective for this purpose. Instead, the federal government has had some recent success using perjury laws to prosecute athletes who use steroids. Maybe sports fraud prosecutions will join perjury as an additional way of making examples out of “immoral” athletes.