COLOGNE, Germany, February 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --
According to information broadcast by WDR, numerous Russian athletes may have enhanced their performance at the latest Olympics and at past Games using a previously unknown method. The WDR magazine "sport inside" (Monday, WDR Fernsehen, 22:45) reports that the method involves inhaling a pharmacologically effective, highly concentrated form of the noble gas xenon as an ingredient in an "oxygen cocktail". Internationally recognised studies show that xenon produces a release of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO) in the body. The introduction of EPO into the human system is prohibited in sport. The non-therapeutic use of pharmacologically effective substances and artificially enhancing the uptake, transport or delivery of oxygen are also included in the Prohibited List of the Code of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Until recently, doping investigators were not aware of the use of the noble gas xenon as a performance-enhancing agent in sport and, what's more, it could not be identified by previous testing methods, as it is a gas and so does not leave any traces that can be measured in routine control procedures, doping expert Mario Thevis of the WADA-accredited control laboratory in Cologne has confirmed to WDR. Xenon has not previously been listed by name on the Prohibited List. Former WADA president Richard Pound (Canada) describes the inhalation of xenon as a clear case of doping: "Something like this has been developed solely to enhance performance - as far as I'm concerned, that's doping."
Xenon has probably been administered extensively in the Russian team for years. Its use is recommended in documents of the ministries of sport and defence "with the aim of enhancing the performance of athletes" - also because the gas has "not been monitored by WADA". Documentation from the research institute "Atom-Med-Zentrum", which is responsible for developing the method, states that it is also to be used "for Sochi" and that more than 70 percent of Russian medallists were treated with xenon at the Olympic Games in Athens (2004) and Turin (2006). According to its own statements, the research institute works with various sports, including the biathlon, cross-country skiing and speed-skating as well as football.
Doping expert Mario Thevis explained to WDR how xenon works based on research by European scientists in animal experiments: "Within a day, within 24 hours, the production of EPO has increased by a factor of 1.6, to 160 per cent. That's a significant increase. It is highly likely that it has the same effect in humans."
In addition to the suspicion of manipulation with higher releases of EPO in the body, another alleged violation of the world anti-doping rules emerges from the Russian documentation. A state document maintains: "Test results have proved that the repeated and continuous uptake of the xenon-oxygen gas mixture through inhalation leads to an increase in the concentration of testosterone in the blood." Testosterone is regarded as one of the classic doping agents. The rules prohibit athletes from using medication to stimulate the release of this male sex hormone in the system.
The head of "Atom-Med-Zentrum" in Russia has denied to WDR the effects of xenon on the release of EPO and more generally that the method even is doping: "It's doping when traces of biochemical reactions are left behind. If that doesn't happen - how can it be considered a doping agent?" When it was put to them, the National Olympic Committee of Russia refused to comment on the allegation.
WADA president Craig Reedie (Scotland) expressed his concern when presented with the WDR research and promised the swiftest possible action: " The experts in the list commitee will discuss it soon, in the next meeting. " Former WADA president Richard Pound expressed similar sentiments: "Let there be no doubt that this is doping and that it will not be possible to state in any possible proceedings that the rules are not clear."
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SOURCE WDR Westdeutscher Rundfunk