Anti-doping body bans use of xenon gas

May 20, 2014 - 12:23:42 am

MONTREAL: The World Anti-Doping Agency banned the inhalation of xenon and argon gas yesterday, saying it could illegally enhance the performance of athletes.

Top Russian athletes were said to have used xenon at Olympic Games from Athens 2004 right up to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.  Inhaling the gas encourages the production in the body of the hormone Erythropoietin (EPO), which encourages the formation of red blood cells in the body to improve performance.

In addition to banning the use of xenon and argon, WADA decided to place the substances on its prohibited list.

“The message to any athlete is loaded and clear, it’s going onto the ban list,” WADA president Craig Reedie said after the agency’s two-day executive committee and foundation board meetings. 

“So if in doubt, do not.”

WADA’s executive committee unanimously approved the ban, which will go into effect after a 90-day delay for national anti-doping organizations to implement the change.

Russia’s athletes enjoyed a hugely successful Winter Games in Sochi, winning 13 gold medals and topping the final medals table.  The country until recent years had a dire reputation for the doping of athletes dating back to the Soviet system. 

However Russia has now taken steps to clean up its act including the creation of its own anti-doping agency RUSADA.  The research institute of the Russian defense ministry reportedly set out guidelines in 2010 for the administration of xenon gas to athletes. 

Meanwhile, Athletics’ world governing body (IAAF) wants to know what “significant assistance” Tyson Gay has provided to the American anti-doping authorities who handed him a shorter one-year ban, its vice president Sebastian Coe said yesterday.  The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced a backdated one-year ban on Gay, the joint second fastest man of all-time, earlier this month for testing positive for a banned anabolic steroid in 2013.  The 31-year-old American could have been suspended for two years for his first doping offence but received a shorter punishment because of his “substantial assistance” in the investigation of his case, the USADA said.

“Well, first of all the IAAF has to look at this case. We haven’t had the opportunity to explore it properly,” Coe said on Monday.

“We would need to know what ‘significant assistance’ meant. And it is for our anti-doping teams at our headquarters in Monaco and the anti-doping board to decide if the sanction is appropriate.”

The USADA said Gay, who is eligible to race again from June 23, provided assistance “including being interviewed on several occasions by USADA and providing all of the products he was using at the time of his positive tests.”