On the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has condemned evidence of the availability in Russia of a new, undetectable muscle-growth drug as “shocking.”
German broadcaster WDR, which has a strong track record in investigating doping in sport, sent undercover reporters to meet a scientist from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. The journalist was offered a drug called Full Size MGF, which is currently being tested legitimately in Russia on animals by scientists investigating its biochemical effects.
The scientist reportedly told the journalist that the drug “works two times faster than a normal muscle tonic and cannot be detected by the doping authorities.”
The undercover reporter, who was given 1mg of the drug to test, was then told that it would cost 100,000 euros (US$135,000) to “prepare” an athlete adequately for the Winter Games.
Question marks over the willingness of the Russian authorities to clamp down on doping were a recurring theme in the run-up to last year’s World Athletics Championships in Moscow and this year’s Winter Olympics, which begin in Sochi tomorrow.
Senior International Olympic Committee sources are convinced that, following warnings four years ago in Vancouver from then-committee president Jacques Rogge, the Russians are now taking the problem seriously. They also cite as key deterrents the stringent testing program around the Games and the ability to keep frozen samples for a decade to be retested at a later date as new techniques are discovered.
However, WADA director-general David Howman said it would be “naive” not to suspect that some athletes would be cheating.
“It would be naive to believe that all athletes in Sochi are clean. There are many who are convinced that the substance they’re taking cannot be detected,” he told WDR. “It is shocking that a scientist would offer substances that have never been tested in people. The athletes are the experimental animals.”
Following tests in Germany that confirmed the drug’s authenticity, doping expert Mario Thevis from the WADA-accredited test laboratory at the German Sports University said it would be in high demand and could be used to accelerate intensive muscle growth.
“It is similar to the IGF 1 growth factor and is classified as very highly effective,” Thevis said.
The committee has promised “the most stringent anti-doping program in the history of the Winter Olympics” at the Sochi Games.
A spokesman said that 2,453 tests would be carried out during the Games, a 14 percent increase on the number carried out in Vancouver four years ago. A further 1,184 targeted tests will be carried out post-competition, with a focus on “higher-risk” sports and team sports such as ice hockey.
Two Russian biathletes, including Irina Starych, who finished sixth overall in the World Cup standings, tested positive at the beginning of this week. Starych, who has asked for her B sample to be tested, was replaced in the Olympic team.
Russian Anti-Doping Agency managing director Nikita Kamaev told the Associated Press this week that it conducted 20,000 tests a year and had dramatically increased the number of “intelligent” targeted tests.
He said the result was an almost 70 percent year-on-year increase in positive cases to about 180 last year, showing that its crackdown was working.