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Anti-doping bodies tipped off about possible use of doping agent at Tour de France

Rumours circulate about weight-reducing substance Aicar being used at Tour de France

Joe Robinson
15 Jul 2019

Anti-doping agencies have been put on high alert for the use of muscle-enhancing and fat reducing agent Aicar at the Tour de France. Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that tip-offs had been given by prominent figures within the sport that the drug had been reintroduced into the peloton in powder form.

Additionally, WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) also confirmed that it had been warned in June to increase its search for Aicar in doping tests by an individual that is already involved with dope testing within the sport.

It is believed that this individual highlighted riders currently at the Tour de France as likely to be taking the substance.

It is also rumoured that riders are even taking the substance in powder form at the ongoing Tour de France with some potentially being given the substance mixed into a bidon without their knowledge.

Doping expert Douwe de Boer, a specialist who helps check various pro team's bio-passports, called Aicar the 'perfect doping agent' before telling De Telegraaf that, 'because it is a natural substance, it is difficult to detect.'

He went on to add, 'You have the option to trace it in the blood with the biological passport, but this is quite difficult. The danger that cyclists are taking it is constantly lurking. Looking for the limits is part of the top sport. Some adhere to the doping list, others also search for limits in the doping list.'

Professor at the WADA-affiliated DoCoLab in Gent, Peter van Eenoo, stated that he is 'not surprised that Aicar is used in cycling' and that 'a request has been made to make greater efforts to track down Aicar', although the lab had put investigations into the drug on the backburner as they did not see it as a problem.

However, Van Eenoo also placed doubt on whether Aicar was even of benefit to professional cyclists. 'Nowhere has it been proven that this product has a direct effect on top sports performance,' he said.

'In addition, you must also take large quantities before it can have any effect. I am afraid that experiments with Aicar are currently being conducted.'

Currently, experiments to assess the effectiveness of Aicar have only been conducted on mice to which the animals had their endurance improved by 68 per cent.

Aicar is a substance produced naturally by the body and it is believed that, when ingested, it can increase a body's red blood cell count and accelerate fat and carbohydrate burning. Being a substance produced in the body, Aicar is also said to be hard to test for.

While the rumours continue to circulate, those within the Tour currently seem to be less sure about the use of Aicar.

De Telegraaf spoke to Jumbo-Visma sport director Merijn Zeeman who spoke of his surprise at the rumours as he saw his team's success as proof that the race was clean.

'As we are contesting the wins again this year, we have the feeling that there is currently quite a clean race,' said Zeeman.

'I don't know these rumours about Aicar. Although, the Austrian Operation Aderlass recently demonstrated that doping has not yet been completely eradicated from cycling.'