MedPage is reporting that a secret test nabbed three riders for using a banned new form of erythropoietin. The drug is CERA (Mircera), a pegylated EPO developed by Roche that reached the European market earlier this year. It was approved by the FDA last November, but U.S. distribution has been stalled by a patent dispute with Amgen, another firm that markets EPO.
Bad news for the cheaters. Good news for honest athletes.
Several riders in this year’s Tour de France bicycle race have now tested positive for CERA (Mircera), a new type of red blood cell growth factor.
Taking EPO (along with other strategies to boost red-cell counts) has long been known to enhance the performance of athletes. CERA is designed to be longer-acting than previous EPO-based agents.
But, until today, neither the lab nor anti-doping agencies had publicly disclosed that such a test even existed until today, leading many in the cycling community to believe CERA could escape detection.
The cycling world is now bracing for a string of additional positive tests, race ejections, and arrests in this year’s Tour.
And, my guess, is that there are scores of Olympic athletes shaking in their boots – and they should be.