VeloNews | Drug maker cooperated with WADA

The World Anti-Doping Agency said Wednesday Italian rider Riccardo Riccò tested positive at the Tour de France after a secret molecule was planted in the blood booster EPO during its manufacture.

Riccò, 24, upset the big names of the sport to win two stages of this year’s Tour before he was kicked off after testing positive for EPO (erythropoietin).

Revealing the now high-tech nature of the fight against drugs in sport, WADA chief John Fahey said his organization worked with drugs giant Roche on the newest version of EPO (erythropoietin).

He said Roche had included a molecule in the third generation of EPO, called Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator (CERA) that acted as a marker in drug tests.

“In the development of that particular substance, close cooperation occurred between WADA and the pharmaceutical company Roche Pharmaceuticals so that there was a molecule placed in the substance well in advance that was always going to be able to be detected once a test was taken,” Fahey told public radio in his native Australia.

Until this year’s Tour, CERA, which is released into the body more slowly than its predecessors, had been thought to be undetectable by drug testers.

Followers of sport have been calling for markers to be placed into certain performance-enhancing drugs for years, and it appears as though it’s finally happening.

In the United States, it would be nearly impossible to insert a marker into a drug after the fact, as it would have to go through the entire testing and approval process from the FDA all over again, which is why Epogen® and Aranesp® (Amgen’s EPO drugs) have taken so long to become detectable; they weren’t designed with the markers already built in, so the drug-testers had to devise another way.

But Mircera® (the brand-name for CERA) was developed with the marker already built in; a fact that surely would have been disclosed to the approvers, and obviously to WADA, but not widely spread, especially to the athletes. And what better way to catch the cheaters than to not tell them HOW you’re going to catch them.

This is the right way to catch drug cheats; not witch hunts.

Yeah, Floyd Landis likely doped. He still got screwed by a system which admits no wrong … and the system still has a lot of other problems. Now that Dick Pound is no longer pounding his dick at WADA, their organizational issues should get better. It’s too bad he’s now a part of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but one step at a time … and we’ll clean up both the sport and the governing bodies.