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EPO Substitutes In Play, Says Expert

Apr 25, 2012

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) director-general David Howman has said he is not surprised that something like 100 news drugs are in circulation among cheats looking for EPO and blood-booster substitutes to get to where they could not get off their own steam.

EPO stimulates the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells and thus increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

"We are in the area where we are into third and fourth generations and they continue to climb. Whether they are detectable or not depends on the ability of the individual laboratory,” Howman told Reuters recently.

During an address to an anti-doping conference last month, German researcher Mario Thevis referred to “80, 90, 100” new performance-enhancing drugs for which no tests yet exist.

He told delegates at a conference in London convened by worldsportslawreport: "They act like EPO (erythropietin) but they are structurally different and that means the current EPO tests will not pick them up.” He added that “according to anecdotal evidence and rumours” the drugs had made their way to the world of elite sports in the run-up to London 2012.

"It doesn’t surprise me," said Howman. Half of all competitors will be tested during the London Games, including all medallists, but there are serious holes in the testing programme this side of the Games. Howman recently referred to EPO testing as being dependent on whether national agencies asked for samples to be scrutinised for the blood booster or not - a a fair few simply did not make the request.

“In terms of the programme that is in place for the Olympic Games, I think it is very good,” Howman told Reuters. "The International Olympic Committee have got probably the most extensive programme they could possibly operate. From the day that athletes come into the opening of the village to the closing ceremony, that’s good. What we need is extensive pre-Games testing and we need all the samples that are collected to be tested for the full menu of substances."

The latter was a comment aimed at national agencies that he says are falling down on their duty to request that samples are tested for specific substances. Just as big a problem is the lack of any such agencies at all in many nations.