Major drug companies have agreed to help the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) identify medicinal compounds that have the potential to be misused by athletes, officials said on Tuesday.
Sports including cycling and athletics have been plagued in recent years by top-level athletes taking substances including the banned blood booster EPO, human growth hormone, testosterone and blood transfusions.
To tackle the scourge WADA director-general David Howman and Haruo Naito, president of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), signed a joint declaration in the Swiss city of Lausanne.
Some 25 leading pharmaceuticals including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co and Eli Lilly and Co are IFPMA members.
"As soon as a reliable method to detect a particular doping compound in athletes is developed, dopers start looking for a new compound which might enhance performance," WADA president John Fahey said in a statement.
"Working closely with pharmaceutical companies to identify new potential doping compounds before they enter clinical trials should facilitate much faster development of detection methods which will benefit clean athletes worldwide."
Drug companies will inform investigators conducting clinical trials of the risks of doping abuse, the statement added.
Relevant information will be transferred on a case-by-case basis but any proprietary or confidential information is to be protected under the agreement.
Drug companies and external partners involved in clinical trials are also to control unused medicinal products to ensure they are not diverted.
"One concern today is that with so many counterfeit medicines around, a lot of people are in the counterfeit business and may only need to steal one vial of a product to try to reproduce it," IFPMA spokesman Guy Willis told Reuters.
While WADA has focused on testing and catching drug cheats, the international police agency Interpol warned earlier this year the frontline in the war had shifted to supply and trafficking of performance-enhancing drugs.
Fahey said in May that evidence from Interpol suggested there is almost as much money, if not more, coming out of performance-enhancing drugs as there is in the illegal drug trade.
WADA's controversial whereabouts rule requiring athletes to give three months' notice of where they will be for an hour each day has become a major source of tension between the Montreal-based agency and international sports federations, including world soccer's governing body FIFA. (Reuters Health/ Stephanie Nebehay, July 2010)
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