Cologne lab develops successful test for banned substance AICAR
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Cologne lab develops successful test for banned substance AICAR

by Ben Atkins at 3:30 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
2013 Tour de France samples to be analysed

aicarThe Cologne Centre for Preventive Doping Research has developed a successful test for the banned substance AICAR, reports, and will be analysing samples from this year’s Tour de France. The substance, developed to help combat obesity, is sometimes known as “exercise in a bottle,” due to its giving laboratory mice a 44% performance enhancement without them making any apparent extra effort.

The Cologne lab was the one responsible for detecting the extremely small amount of Clenbuterol in Alberto Contador’s urine after the 2010 Tour.

The historic problem with perfecting a test for AICAR has been that it is naturally occurring in the body, just as substances like EPO and testosterone are. As with the detection of those substances, therefore, a threshold is established, with those falling outside normal parameters undergoing further analysis.

"We have a reference population of 1000 athletes has been studied from different regions, genders, age groups, etc, with whose results a kind of limit is created,” explained Professor Mario Thevis from the Cologne, Germany, lab. “That is, if values fall within this range or above, you can view this urine sample as suspect. If that is the case, then it is subjected to further investigation.”

AICAR first hit the headlines in cycling in 2009, when French authorities found packaging in the Astana team hotel during the Tour de France. Astana’s Alberto Contador went on the win the race, with Lance Armstrong taking third, although the American has since been stripped of that result.

At the time AICAR was not on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned list, but was added at the end of 2010.

It would therefore be treated as a doping offence if any riders used the substance during the 2013 Tour. With the International Cycling Union (UCI) reportedly having sent samples from the race to Cologne, and so any user of AICAR should surely be caught.

"In nature there are two versions of carbon; this is the carbon 12 with the mass 12, and the carbon with mass 13 and the mixing ratio reflects exactly what carbon is in the food we we eat,” Thevis explained. “If you produce a synthetic product, then this ratio, this signature of the carbon, is different and that can be distinguished with the help of modern analytical techniques.”


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