Secret molecule catches drug cheats

July 25th, 2008

I just read a great story on the ABC news website. It talked about how one of the riders in the Tour de France was caught because the drug company Roche put a secret molecule in the latest batches of EPO.

EPO is a drug that is legitimately used to help people with anemia and kidney disease. It boosts the way oxygen is used by the body. The problem is that athletes sometimes use this to boost their performance in endurance sports.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said they have been working in secret with major drug companies to develop new drugs with markers in them that will be easily detected. I believe this co-operation between WADA and the drug companies is a great step forward for all sports.

The problem I have with drugs in sport is that it is cheating. That goes without saying. But I also believe it robs people of the rightful celebration they deserve when they win. If you and I have a race and I win, I get to stand on the dais and celebrate in front of the world. If the next day I test positive for a drug and get thrown out, I have still “stolen” your rightful celebration. You may be awarded the gold medal or stage win jersey at a later stage, but I have still stolen your celebration. That moment in time can never be replaced.

It will be interesting to see how many athletes preparing for the Olympics pull out now with an “injury” because they are worried that they may now be caught by secret markers in their drugs.