First doping findings with blood agent Molidustat

Radfahrer und ihre Schatten

Doping in the cycling sports

First doping findings with blood agent Molidustat

Von Thilo Neumann and Hajo Seppelt

At the end of May, cycling professional Matija Kvasina was still celebrating his victory of a stage race in Luxembourg. Now the Croatian has temporarily been suspended, following two positive doping tests. What stands out in particular is that a substance was found that has not yet been clinically approved.

The news did not receive much attention, yet it is a novel development in the fight against doping: At the beginning of July, it was announced that the Croatian cycling professional, Matija Kvasina, had been temporarily suspended following two positive doping tests. Kvasina was the first sporting professional to test positively for the drug Molidustat – a substance that hasn’t even yet received clinical approval.

The effect of the drug is typical of that of many doping substances abused in cycling sports. Molidustat has a similar effect on the body as high-altitude training under low-oxygen conditions: The substance simulates erythropoietin (EPO) production by the body, which boosts the transport of oxygen in the blood and thus increases the athlete’s stamina. At the same time, Molidustat also inhibits the formation of the enzyme HIF-PH, which regulates the release of EPO. The drug is actually supposed to be used to treat people with kidney disorders suffering from anaemia – but it is still in the trial phase and not yet available on the market.

Preventative doping

It is to the credit of preventative doping research that, with Kvasina, a first cycling professional was already caught with the drug. The testing procedure for Molidustat was jointly developed by two doping control laboratories in Cologne and Paris in 2016. The current finding shows that the time gap between the use of new substances by fraudsters and its detectability through doping analyses has been reduced. At the beginning of the year, doping investigators were already able to report a similar success: In a reanalysis of urine samples taken at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, three female Chinese weightlifters tested positive for the peptide hormone GHRP-2 – a substance that at the time of abuse by the athletes had not yet been clinically tested. All three athletes had won gold in their weight category, victories that have now been retrospectively annulled.

Cycling professional Matija Kvasina now faces similar consequences: The UCI World Cycling Centre could ban the sevenfold Croatian champion from competitions for up to four years. Kvasina’s employer, the Austrian team Felbermayr Simplon Wels, has already suspended him. At the end of May he won the stage race Flèche du Sud in Luxembourg – the competition where the two urine samples were taken, in which Molidustat was subsequently discovered. Kvasina himself has not commented on the test results so far.

Stand: 21.07.2017, 12:09