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Archive for  July 2008

Thursday 31, Jul 2008

Cycling and its romance with steroids, performance boosters

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Marta Bastianelli steroidsAnother rider tested positive for performance-enhancing drug. That’s nothing new. In fact, that does not constitute news in the world of cycling. Now, if that’s another way around – a rider winning a tournament without using performance boosters – that would be an eye-popping news.

From the Virgin Media:

World road race champion Marta Bastianelli has failed a doping test, the Italian cycling federation confirmed on Monday.

The Italian rider tested positive for illegal stimulant flenfluramine following a drug test on July 5 at the European under-23 championship in Verbania.

The sample will now be sent for a counter-analysis.

It is expected Bastianelli will be replaced for the Olympic Games.

Gianni Petrucci, president of  the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) was damning of Bastianelli, saying she had “betrayed” her colleagues.

Betrayed? We think that’s such a strong word to use. You see, cycling and performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids and erythropoietin (EPO), are inseparable tandem. Remember the Festina Affair?

The Festina Affair took place in Tour de France 1998 in Ireland where a string of investigations and reluctant confessions exposed a systematic and massive doping activity by those high-paid professional cyclists. It is so called because it started from the discovery of cache of doping paraphernalia in a vehicle belonging to the Festina team then snowballed to other participating teams. Investigators found several hundred grams of anabolic steroids, EPO, syringes – you name it, the Festina Team got it.

The Festina Affair gave birth to the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Big Brother of the doping world.  That’s why now John Fahey fulfils a crusading role internationally rather an obscure government post in Australia. And that’s why now competitive athletes blame Bruno Roussel, et al., for the inception of WADA – the bane of their profession.

“If the analysis is confirmed we will be inflexible. Marta Bastianelli has betrayed CONI, the federation and the world of cycling,” he told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“We will also have to weigh up the eventual damage to the image of Italian sport, seeing as she had already signed the contract all Azzurri athletes heading to Beijing had to sign.”

The president of the Italian cycling federation, Renato Di Rocco, was less harsh in his view of the outcome, and revealed the federation would request more tests.

“She has been incredibly naive,” said Di Rocco. “She has tested positive for flenfluramine, which is a component in diet products. She only eats salad.

“Now we will immediately call for a counter-analysis. But the problem is not only the Olympics, which she as world champion was obviously due to take part in. The problem is for her image and for that of cycling.”

Thursday 31, Jul 2008

Man not ‘laughing’ when sentenced of fraud and steroid possession

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steroids baseballLaughter is not always the best medicine, especially in the case of Christopher Laughter who was sentenced to five-month prison term for Medicare fraud and illegal possession of anabolic steroids.

Apparently, Laughter has always been in a convivial mood – except during his sentencing, of course – so that he was able to con several healthcare programs, including Medicare.
And there’s more. The penitent Laughter was also able to get a plea agreement with prosecutors. He was originally charged with 27-count indictment, which could have put him away for life in some prison cell, crying away the hours for sure.

His volunteer work in a city ballet group might have put him in better light in the judge’s eyes. We just wonder what the precise nature of his participation with the ballet group was. Did he serve juices during rehearsals? Oh, by that we mean orange juices not the type that makes you all juiced up (read: steroids).

One of his attorneys, Kathy Schillaci, pointed out Laughter has no prior criminal record, no longer works in health care, has a low chance of recidivism, and volunteers in church and the community, including in a city ballet group.

Laughter’s wife and about 10 friends and neighbors came to show support.

Judge Currie said she was concerned more about “the fraud aspect of the case” than steroids and said some time in custody was necessary.

Laughter is married with two daughters. His clinic, which was shut down in May 2007 after a raid by the DEA, provided testosterone injections to increase their stamina and libido.

Wednesday 30, Jul 2008

China’s crackdown on steroids – Better late than never

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china-steroidsIn preparation for the coming Summer Olympics in Beijing, and probably in response to the recent showing of a documentary in Germany about gene doping and steroid trade in China, Chinese officials are now intensifying their drive against suppliers of performance-enhancing drugs.

Those who have suffered the brunt of now embarrassed local anti-doping officials include manufacturers of steroids and peptide hormones, wholesalers, consumer outlets and websites.

The Earth Times has the complete report:

China has begun a clampdown on companies making drugs that can be used to enhance sporting performance ahead of next month’s Olympic Games in Beijing. Production bans, licence withdrawals and fines have all been used by the authorities, the national anti-doping agency (CHINADA) and other ministerial agencies reported Monday.

According to the reports, 257 companies which deal with or manufacture anabolic steroids and peptide hormones, 2,739 wholesalers and 340,000 consumer outlets were inspected.

As a result, 30 companies were ordered to suspend production while 25 firms had their licence to manufacture drugs which can be used for doping withdrawn.

Another 318 websites, which gave information on the sale of steroids and peptide
hormones, were also targeted.

“We have punished those who have broken the rules,” said Yan Jiangyung, spokeswoman for the Chinese state authority that overlooks nutrition and medicinal drugs.

Earlier this month, a German television documentary suggested that genetic doping is possible in China.

The documentary broadcast by the state-run ARD network showed a reporter, claiming to be a swimming coach, inquiring about performance- enhancing stem cell treatment for athletes in a Chinese hospital.

While Yan called on the ARD to hand over any information it had on Chinese medical practitioners who were involved in doping, a spokesman for the Health Ministry said genetic doping was not possible.

“I can say in agreement with international experts that such a therapy does not exist in China or elsewhere internationally,” said Mao Qunan.

With less than two weeks before the start of the Games, many consider the move to be a belated attempt to curb the use of these banned compounds. But China is under intense pressure from anti-doping agencies, particularly the World Anti-Doping Agency. WADA’s top gun John Fahey has been proclaiming that the 2008 Summer Olympics will be the cleanest ever.

From AFP:

Though Fahey refused to guarantee a completely drug-free Games, he said cheats are more likely to be caught by the doping agency this year than ever before.
“One has to recognise the question of doping in sport has been around now for a long time,” Fahey told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio.

“There’s been evidence that at successive games it’s occurred. (But) I can give this guarantee: there’s a far greater likelihood that anybody cheating or attempting to cheat in the Beijing Games will be caught than in any other time of our history.”

It is expected that around 4,500 tests for banned compounds will be implemented on participating athletes in the Beijing Olympics. This is significantly higher with those that had been carried out in Athens and Sydney, numbering to 3,700 and 2,800 tests respectively.

Wednesday 30, Jul 2008

MMA fighter Alexandre Nogueira suspended due to steroids

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World Extreme Cagefighting fighter Alexandre Noguiera failed a doping test at WEC show held on June 1. The featherweight tested positive for the anabolic steroid boldenone.

The California State Athletic Commission suspended Nogueira for a year due to the steroid use. His suspension is through May 31, 2009. He was also asked to pay a fine of $2,500 but has the option to appeal the decision.

According to CSAC Assistant Executive Officer Bill Douglas, Nogueira’s “A” sample was tested at Quest Diagnostics and his “B” sample was tested at Laboratoire de Controle du Dopage, a WADA certified test facility located in Laval, Quebec in Canada.

The WEC show took place at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, Calif. In said event, Nogueira (13-5-2) lost to Jose Aldo via second-round TKO. The Brazilian fighter lost three of his past four fights.

Apparently, this is not the first case of MMA fighter testing positive for a banned substance. Many who are considered loyalties in the sport also resorted to these drugs. Sean Sherk, Royce Gracie, Josh Barnett, and Phil Baroni are just a few of those who reportedly violated anti-doping rules. Most of them have been handed down with suspension and/or pecuniary fines.

Why is there a prevalent use of these agents in MMA?

MMA is a sport where size and strength does matter. Talent and skills does not necessarily translate to triumphs; and thus, those who literally play this game resort to every means and avenues to gain an edge. Anabolic steroids and their ability to enhance the physique and performance come in handy.

MMA also is a sport where injuries are part and parcel of the profession – and we’re not talking about mere scratches or muscle cramps but bone-breaking, blood-letting injuries – anabolic steroids are used to hasten the healing process.

In the article published by American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, it is cited that anabolic steroids do have legitimate medical uses. It states: “Anabolic steroids may aid in the healing of muscle contusion injury to speed the recovery of force-generating capacity. Although anabolic steroids are considered renegade drugs, they may have an ethical clinical application to aid healing in severe muscle contusion injury, and their use in the treatment of muscle injuries warrants further research.”

Tuesday 29, Jul 2008

Steroids, performance-enhancing drugs part of pro cycling

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Moises_Duenas_Nevado_steroidsMoises Duenas, Riccardo Ricco, Dmitri Fofonov and Manuel Beltran can be collectively called as the Four Bikemen of Champ-Elysees. However, the four cyclists – unlike their horse-riding counterparts – are not the harbingers of the destruction of cycling. These four riders, who have tested positive for banned compounds in the recently concluded Tour de France, are actually the representatives of the dynamics of the sport.

According to University of Vermont assistant professor Brian Gilley doping and cycling go hand in hand. And you’ve got to believe what this guy is saying since he’s a recreational cyclist and an anthropologist to boot. We just hope that by recreational cyclist he means a rider of bi-pedaled vehicle and not a person who cycles anabolic steroids.

Anyway, Prof. Gilley authoritatively states that the use of performance-enhancing drugs, such as steroids an EPO, has been prevalent in cycling “because the stakes are high and athletes are looking for ways to advance.”

Therefore, cycling fans should not expect squeaky clean pro cycling events not now, and maybe never, as long as there the lure of these twins – fame and fortune.  The sponsors, team owners, and race organizers typically turn a blind eye on athletes who use banned compounds. These athletes, after all, are their sources of bread and butter – and by that we don’t mean your normal breakfast staple.

Here’s the rest of the article by the Burlington Freepress.com

…Gilley has recently begun studying doping in professional road cycling. Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the World Anti-Doping Association, Gilley is examining rider attitudes toward doping with the hope of understanding what role the cycling institution has had in the proliferation of doping.

“You look at the nature of doping not just as acts of moral failure, but you look at how cycling as a culture was working to support doping,” Gilley said.

In all the work that has been produced on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional road cycling, there is little critical examination on the motivation behind doping, Gilley said. For the past year, he has been studying elite under-23 cyclists’ openness to doping. He found that of his American participants — he has studied cyclists from France, Italy and Belgium, as well — 20 percent said they would dope if they could be on a ProTour team or win the Tour de France.

In Europe, where road cycling is far more popular and profitable than in the U.S., the pressures to dope are overwhelming, Gilley suggests. While not an apologist for doping, Gilley argues that “in many ways, it makes sense to dope.”

Many of the professional road cyclists on top European teams such as Liquigas, Credit Agricole and Quick Step come from working-class backgrounds, Gilley says. Unlike in the U.S., where professional cyclists typically have college degrees, European pros have limited options beyond cycling and little to fall back on if their careers don’t work out, he said. The pressure to dope comes with the territory.

“Using performance-enhancing drugs has become embedded in pro cycling,” Gilley said. “It’s become an assumed part of the sport.”

Tuesday 29, Jul 2008

‘Stunning’ gene doping, low-cost steroids in China

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Beijing-2008-Summer-Olympics-SteroidsThe recent showing of the documentary film Flying High in Middle Kingdom once again focuses the public’s attention on the issue of the use of performance-enhancing drugs (i.e. steroids) and methods (i.e. gene doping) in competitive sports.

The documentary’s timing and locale is intentionally inopportune – it is in China where the Summer Olympics is to commence on August 8. The documentary, which aired on ARD television in Germany, shows that despite the clean-up act of Chinese authorities conducted for many months now, it is still business as usual for the manufacturers and traders of anabolic steroids. And this is causing alarm amongst anti-doping agencies.  Even more alarming for these watchdogs is the fact that there is a clear stepping up of doping in competitive sports – the use of biotechnology to enhance the performance of athletes.

Anti-doping officials were ‘stunned’ as an AP report put it. The same report provided additional details on this news:

The report, filmed with a concealed camera, shows the doctor with his face blurred speaking in Chinese and offering the treatment in return for $24,000, according to a translation provided by the ARD television.

The documentary broadcast Monday did not offer evidence that the hospital had provided gene doping to other athletes, but anti-doping officials were appalled that the treatment was so readily available.

“I could not have imagined it in such a provable form,” Mario Thevis, chief of the German center of preventive doping research in Cologne.

Another Cologne expert on gene doping, Patrick Diel, said he was “stunned to see it.”
“It goes beyond my worst expectations,” Diel said.

In the documentary, the reporter posing as an American swimming coach meets with the head of the gene therapy department of a Chinese hospital. It did not name the doctor, or the hospital.

The New York Times also ran a report on this documentary.

The documentary, broadcast by ARD on Germany’s main channel last night, went on to show evidence that drugs firms in China are prepared to sell steroids that have not passed full clinical trials, as well as erythropoietin (EPO), the blood-boosting drug, at a price far cheaper than in the West. In the case of one steroid, 100g was sold for €150 (about £120) when the price in Europe would have been more than €6,000.

When investigators approached three companies for the supply of steroids and EPO, they were asked to pick up the substances personally, to get round the preGames crackdown on selling illegal substances on the black market. EPO and a steroid called estra-diendione were offered. One hundred grams of the steroid cost 1,500 yuan (about £100). It came with quality control certification and proved to be a bargain. The cost in Europe is upwards of £4,500 per 100g, according to Mario Thevis, an expert at a laboratory in Cologne.

Leave it to the Chinese to offer the most competitive price on everything!

Monday 28, Jul 2008

Tour de France 2008 and Steroids

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Tour_De_France_steroidsTour de France 2008 is described as a doping-scarred race and considering that four riders have been found out to be using steroids that description is no surprise. Kazakhstan’s Dmitri Fofonov was tested positive for a banned substance on his final day of the Tour.

The 31-year-old Fofonov’s now belongs to the infamous roster of those who commit the mortal sin (read: performance-enhancing drug use) of professional sports. He was tested positive for the drug heptaminol after the 18th stage on Thursday. A “very high dose” apparently is what gave away Fofonov. His flimsy excuse of taking the drug to fight cramps was not accepted by his team Credit Agricole – he was given the high kick out.

According to the head of France’s anti-doping agency, Fofonov was arrested at team’s hotel and was later held for questioning. We wonder if he asked for his heptaminol when he suffered cramps sitting on some French interrogation room.

In an ABC News news report, Legeay offered basically the same castigatory statements:

“He has failed to respect our basic team rules,” Credit Agricole manager Roger Legeay said.
“No products can be taken by any riders unless they have prior authorisation from the team doctor.

“He has made a mistake, which can happen, but it’s not good news for us or for him.”

Fofonov is the fourth rider from the Tour to have tested positive for a banned substance.
Italian Riccardo Ricco, and Spanish duo Manuel Beltran and Moises Duenas all tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) and were thrown out of the race.

The 31-year-old Fofonov, from Almaty, turned professional in 1998. Since 2000 he has competed with only French teams, picking up just three wins: the national time trial title (2000), a stage on the Tour of Catalonia (2002) and a stage on the Dauphine Libere earlier this year.

If there’s anything positive that has come out of this – other than the doping test, of course – is that Fofonov now is one of the most recognizable names in pro cycling (he even merited a space in Wikipedia). Maybe even overshadowing Spaniard rider Carlos Sastre who wore the symbolic yellow jersey at the conclusion of the Tour.

Monday 28, Jul 2008

Steroid users in jail? Expect prison guards’ request for salary hike

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AsafaPowell_steroidsIf Asafa Powell’s wish be granted, you’d see different kind of prison riots. Just imagine all those beefed-up athletes with roid rage tendencies cramped in prison cells. Incarceration definitely would not improve their disposition one bit, and this would make the work of prison guards a tad difficult.

The Jamaican sprinter wants athletes who are caught using anabolic steroids and other banned compounds to be sent to jail. Powell, the former 100m world record-holder, says a two-year ban is not enough punishment and deterrent against those who use unfair means over their competitors.

“I have no idea how it feels when people take something,” said the Jamaican yesterday. “A lot of the athletes do the drugs, they know it is illegal and they compete against other athletes who are working hard all year.

“If someone comes out and they are taking drugs and win the gold, they are robbing me of my gold medal. When people do things like that, they should be punished for it. Two years from the sport and then back, it is pretty easy. It’s for the experts to see what else they can do about it and make the athletes understand. They should be given this impression that they will go to jail if they do it.”

(Read UK’s The Guardian for the complete story)

Powell has an interesting career start. He got his first taste of the track limelight when he was disqualified at the 2003 World Championship due to false start during the quarterfinal round.  During that same event American Jon Drummond was also disqualified for the same offense. Drummond refused to acknowledge his false start with his repetitive and memorable statement ‘I did not move.’

In Athens on June 14, 2005, Powell grabbed the world record with his 9.77-second finish at the 100m. He beat American Tim Montgomery’s 2002 record of 9.78 s. Montgomery’s record was later annulled because of allegations of steroid use.

Sunday 27, Jul 2008

With such statement as “Get rid of steroids now” would President Bush pardon Marion Jones?

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Marion JonesA six-month jail term is something former track star Marion Jones cannot handle. So she’s now asking President Bush to beg her pardon. Would the outgoing Prez grant her wish?

With the admonishing letter from the newly appointed USA Track and Field, that wish may not be granted.

The New York Times provides details on this ‘juicy’ scoop:

The newly appointed chief executive of USA Track & Field has sent a strongly worded letter to President Bush, asking him not to pardon the disgraced sprinter Marion Jones or commute the six-month jail sentence she is serving for lying to investigators about her use of performance-enhancing drugs and about her role in a check-fraud case.

“Our country has long turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of our heroes,” Doug Logan wrote in an open letter to President Bush. Logan was named chief executive of the sport’s national governing body last week. “If you have athletic talent or money or fame, the law is applied much differently than if you are slow or poor or an average American trying to get by. At the same time, all sports have for far too long given the benefit of the doubt to its heroes who seem too good to be true, even when common sense indicates they are not.

“To reduce Ms. Jones’s sentence or pardon her would send a horrible message to young people who idolized her, reinforcing the notion that you can cheat and be entitled to get away with it. A pardon would also send the wrong message to the international community. Few things are more globally respected than the Olympic Games, and to pardon one of the biggest frauds perpetuated on the Olympic movement would be nothing less than thumbing our collective noses at the world.”

In October, at a federal court in White Plains, Jones pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators in two cases: the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative doping case that also ensnared her former coach (Trevor Graham) and former boyfriend (Tim Montgomery), and a bank case involving fraudulent checks.

The same New York Times article lauded the Logan’s undaunted position on Jones’ case:

The letter sent by Logan was a striking departure from the often-timid remarks made by leaders of various Olympic sports federations. It reflected the anger that many antidoping officials felt after Jones called into question the legitimacy of drug-testing procedures before acknowledging that she had taken illicit substances.

Jones has won five medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia but has since been stripped of every medal dating back to September 2000 after admitting that she used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. She’s at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell near Fort Worth, Tex., since March. Since she has already served a good portion of her sentence, many consider her request an attempt to clear her record of a felony conviction.

President Bush’s action on Jones’ case will show his resolve against the use of steroids in professional sports. He has constantly voiced out his strong views on this issue, even meriting a paragraph in his State of the Union Address in 2004.

Here’s that telling paragraph of President Bush’s take on steroids. An excerpt of his 2004 State of the Union Address reads:

To help children make right choices, they need good examples. Athletics play such an important role in our society, but, unfortunately, some in professional sports are not setting much of an example. The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message—that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches, and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now.

Saturday 26, Jul 2008

New technology to catch users of steroids, EPO, and other banned drugs

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Congress, steroids, baseballAthletes who use banned compounds like EPO and anabolic steroids should beware. Let what happened to cyclist Ricardo Ricco be a lesson.

The Italian cyclist, who has been a two-stage winner of Tour de France, was expelled from the race because of the newfangled anti-doping technology.    Ricco was ninth overall before he was evicted Thursday before the 12th stage. His team, Saunier Duval, subsequently quit the race, and Ricco and teammate Leonardo Piepoli were later fired. Piepoli has confessed of using the same third generation EPO, which Ricco has tested positive for.

Apparently, it’s not only on the war on terror that technologies have been stepped up but also on war against drugs –stealth modes are now being used to catch the enemies, so to speak. With this cunning detection method, we wonder who would be the next athletes to be smoked out of their juiced up haven.

The Sydney Morning Herald published this report July 24:

A MOLECULE was the undoing of Tour de France drug cheat Ricardo Ricco, World Anti-Doping Agency chief John Fahey revealed yesterday.

Fahey said the war on drugs was stepping up, with WADA uniting with drug manufacturers to trap cheats. Italian rider Ricco, who had won stages six and nine of the Tour, tested positive for the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO). It’s believed Ricco thought there was no test for the red-cell booster he was using called Continuous Erythropoietin Receptor Activator (CERA).

A molecule placed in the drug during its manufacture caught Ricco out last week, and Fahey said that more cheats would be sprung like this.
“I can’t tell you the details of how he was detected,” Fahey told ABC Radio. “[But] I can indicate the particular substance is called CERA … which is a perfectly legitimate substance to deal with anaemia.

“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 undertaken.”

The WADA chief is hopeful that more drug companies will advocate this new technology, ridding competitive sports of athletes who rely on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to win. The Beijing Games will also be the cleanest Olympics yet, he added, because of improved testing technology.

“The more co-operation 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,” Fahey said.

“[But] I can give this guarantee – there’s a far greater likelihood that anybody cheating or attempting to cheat in the Beijing Games will be caught than in any other time of our history.”

However, there seems to be counterflow to this kind of technology. Ever heard of gene doping? It is defined by WADA – yup, the same organization Mr. Fahey leads – as “the non-therapeutic use of cells, genes, genetic elements, or of the modulation of gene expression, having the capacity to improve athletic performance.” Suffice it to say that gene doping offers a new frontier for athletes who want to foil detection.

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