Last summer when the Tour de France ran anti-doping tests for the new CERA EPO, there was a story that the drugs manufacturer -- Roche -- embedded a chemical fingerprint on the compound.
WADA is lips sealed on this, but leaks say that Tour de France EPO drug cheat Riccardo Ricco fell to a stealth molecule attached to the drug by the manufacturer (Roche). The new EPO preparation -- CERA, a pegylated version of EPO -- appears to have a trojan horse embedded somewhere that can be detected in WADA labs.
Roche denied the claims at the time:
Apparently WADA didn't understand the science, or WADA president John Fahey misspoke. Roche, the manufacturer of the new CERA variety of EPO denies claims of a stealth molecule embedded in the drug to catch dopers. (Science Blogs)
Now Roche is saying that the company did cooperate with WADA in enabling lab detection of CERA EPO. (IHT)
The maker of a drug at the center of a new Tour de France scandal says it collaborated with anti-doping experts to help catch cheats in sports.
Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding AG teamed up with the World Anti-Doping Agency since 2004 once clinical trials showed that the blood-booster CERA could become a doping drug of choice.
"We were very pleased that this collaboration with WADA has been productive," Roche spokeswoman Claudia Schmitt said Wednesday.
The new test was implemented at the Tour de France and will be utilized in retesting Beijing 2008 Olympics samples.
With an effective laboratory blood test finally available, three stage winners in the 2008 Tour — Stefan Schumacher of Germany and Italy's Riccardo Ricco (EPO gets you kisses, photo at right) and Leonardo Piepoli — have been caught cheating with CERA, an advanced version of EPO. Schumacher and Piepoli were exposed Monday.
On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee announced it would retest samples taken from athletes in all sports at the Beijing Games in August to search for traces of CERA.
Roche, who says it monitors worldwide distribution of the drug gives this overview:
"At that time it was in clinical development and WADA was thinking it could be a new doping product," Schmitt said. "We immediately jumped in to help. We provided data and sent them samples of Mircera so they could work and develop the test."
Mircera is effective for longer periods than EPO and requires patients to inject themselves less often.
Half the active substance still works in the body 134 hours after a dose, compared with 40 hours for EPO.
"This is also the reason why it has helped WADA to detect it more easily," Schmitt said.
As the first commentator suggests, Roche did not embed a fingerprint moiety on the CERA EPO; however Roche did assist with lab detection techniques.