Drug Companies Recruited To Assist Olympic Anti-Doping Efforts
February 9, 2014

Drug Companies Recruited To Assist Olympic Anti-Doping Efforts

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

In an effort to help curb the use of banned performance-enhancing substances at the ongoing Winter Olympics, some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies are revealing information that once would have been considered to be trade secrets, according to media reports published on Friday.

According to Associated Press (AP) Health Writer Matthew Perrone, Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline and Roche are among those firms that have begin sharing “confidential research and data” with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) officials in an attempt to prevent cheating at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

“The increasing cooperation comes as doping athletes move away from easy-to-spot drugs like anabolic steroids to more sophisticated, obscure performance-boosting substances – many of which were first formulated in pharmaceutical research labs,” Perrone said.

As WADA science director Olivier Rabin explained, cooperation with pharmaceutical companies is essential “to predict the future of doping.” Rabin’s organization, which oversees drug-testing standards at the Olympics and other international sporting events, signed a “declaration on cooperation” with the Biotech Industry Organization in 2011 and also has reached separate agreements with individual drug makers.

Under that agreement, the pharmaceutical companies will provide WADA with early information about the products they are currently developing that could be used to increase a person’s stamina, build muscle or speed up recovery efforts.

“Some of the drugs WADA is looking for never even made it out of the laboratory,” Perrone said. “Drugs like GW501516, an experimental compound from GlaxoSmithKline, which was briefly hailed as ‘exercise in a pill’ after studies in mice showed it lowered fat, boosted muscle and improved exercise endurance by nearly 80 percent.”

GW501516 was initially being developed as a medication that would boost a person’s HDL or good cholesterol levels. However, the drug’s development was discontinued five years ago, after it was linked to liver, bladder and stomach tumors in animal testing. Despite those side effects, however, WADA-affiliated laboratories recently found that the substance was being used by at least five professional cyclists.

“A lot of what dopers are looking for is under the radar. They're looking for drugs that were terminated and that enforcement agencies don't know about yet,” Mark Luttman, who coordinates Glaxo's anti-doping program with WADA, told the AP. The agreement between drug-testers is essential, Perrone added, because WADA has an annual budget of just around $28 million, and substance abuse allegations sometimes run rampant.

In fact, earlier this month, German broadcaster WDR claimed that a new, undetectable muscle-building substance was available in Russia, according to The Guardian. In their report, WDR said that an undercover journalist was offered the substance during a meeting with someone from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

The reporter was provided with a one milligram sample of a drug known as Full Size MGF, which reportedly worked twice as fast as regular muscle enhancers and was said to be undetectable by doping authorities. The journalist was then told it would cost €100,000 ($136,280) to adequately “prepare” an athlete for the Winter Olympics.

In January, the AP reported that officials at the Sochi Games planned to institute “the toughest drug-testing program in Winter Games history” and that they would be “focusing their efforts on weeding out dopers through rigorous pre-games and pre-competition tests.” They also announced plans to conduct a “record number” of tests during this year’s Olympics.