The World Anti-Doping Agency is storing suspicious readings of a substance used in clinical drug trials in the run-up to the London Olympics after police seized vials in a sports doctor’s luggage.
Athlete urine samples with elevated levels of a metabolism modulator, AICAR, are being frozen pending validation of a test for the substance, WADA Science Director Olivier Rabin said. A 2008 study found AICAR, made in synthetic form by companies including New York-based Enzo Biochem Inc., helped boost stamina in sedentary mice by 44%.
Doctor Alberto Beltran was arrested in March, with Barcelona police saying in a statement that they were breaking up a doping ring because of the proximity to the Olympics. Beltran denies wrongdoing, his lawyer Matias Palomo said. Athlete samples can be stored and re-tested for eight years under anti-doping rules.
“We’re not blind and deaf: we can see what has been seized,” Rabin said from Montreal. Storing and re-testing samples “is part of our arsenal.”
He declined to say how many samples had been stored. The mice research has helped AICAR attain “mythical” status among athletes, according to the study’s author Ronald Evans, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif. He said he has been contacted by about 100 athletes seeking more information.
The research found untrained rodents that were fed synthetic AICAR over four weeks ran 44 percent longer on a treadmill than untreated rodents. Salk Institute published a news release headlined “exercise in a pill,” which was picked up by the media.