Anti-doping authorities have perfected a new test capable of
detecting the drug Synacthene, and it is currently being used by
doping controllers at the Tour de France, sources have told AFP.
The substance, a synthetic hormone also known as ACTH, has up to
now proved virtually impossible to detect and evidence has been
limited to allegations made by ex-users.
The new test has been perfected by specialists at the
Anti-Doping Laboratory in Cologne and was tried out experimentally
at German cycling events last year before being approved by the
International Cycling Union (UCI) as part of its new battery of
"It is based on urine samples, but can also be applied to blood
samples," said Professor Mario Thevis, who developed the system.
"We prefer, however, urine because there are larger volumes and
more samples available. Of course, Synacthene was considered relevant and important,
but blood testing was not as frequent at that time and the first
method was based on blood specimens," Prof Thevis said.
"Moreover, the collection and storage conditions were critical:
nowadays everything is harmonised."
Drug used with steroids and testosterone
Experts say Synacthene has typically been used in association
with anabolic steroids and testosterone, the cocktail of drugs
being injected directly into a racer's body to boost resistance to
pain and to enhance performance.
According to anti-doping expert Dr Jean-Pierre de Modenard,
there is evidence of the drug having being used for many years -
not just in cycling, but also in football.
Dr de Modenard hopes the discovery will help fill one of the
remaining gaps in knowledge relating to illegal substances.
"To state that only 1% of controls turn up positive is
hypocritical, and this has been the perfect example of what happens
when there is a lack of data," he said. – (Sapa, July 2009)
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