Ricco caught by secret doping molecule
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ricco caught by secret doping molecule

by Agence France-Presse at 7:13 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
The world doping agency said Wednesday Italian rider Riccardo Ricco tested positive at the Tour de France after a secret molecule was planted in the blood booster EPO during its manufacture.

Ricco, 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, World Anti-Doping Agency chief John Fahey said his organisation 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 (CARA), that acted as a flag in drug tests showing when an athlete was using the substance. "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 country Australia.

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

Fahey said such cooperation with drug companies was the way forward in fighting drug cheats. "There's more and more of this occurring," he said. "The more cooperation the scientists can have with the drug companies in the detection of performance-enhancing drugs the greater the likelihood is they will be detected when tests are undertaken."

Ricco is one of three riders to test positive for EPO at this year's tour, tarring the race once again with a drugs controversy. He has denied using the substance, which was developed to boost oxygen levels in the blood of people with anemia who also have kidney disease. It has been banned in sports as it gives athletes an unfair advantage over their rivals.

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