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WADA set to monitor situation
The MPCC and Giant-Shimano have both told Cyclingnews that they would welcome action from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to ban Xenon gas.
The substance, currently not even on WADA's watchlist, made headlines during the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, when Russian athletes were alleged to have inhaled the drug in order to replicate the same benefits as provided by blood boosting drug Erythropoietin (EPO).
Last month it was confirmed that WADA would look into the matter with their next meeting coming up in April. Meanwhile, Cyclingnews confirmed that Garmin-Sharp were aware of the substance but that the team refused to use the drug as it crossed an ethical line.
Anko Boelens, the team physician at Giant-Shimano, a member of the MPCC, told Cyclingnews that, "Team Giant-Shimano will never use Xenon gas to artificially boost the aerobic capacity of its riders. Not only because of the fact that there have been no studies on short or long term effects in humans, but because in my opinion this procedure is in direct violation of our team mission to help create a clean and honest cycling environment."
"We fully support the WADA and the MPCC in their attempts to make sure the use of Xenon gas will be banned in the future," he added.
The current WADA code prohibits "Artificially enhancing the uptake, transport or delivery of oxygen, including, but not limited to, perfluorochemicals, efaproxiral (RSR13) and modified haemoglobin products (eg haemoglobin-based blood substitutes, microencapsulated haemoglobin products), excluding supplemental oxygen."
Boelens would not speculate as to whether he believed Xenon gas was being used within the current peloton but added that "we cannot rule it out."
Cyclingnews also contacted Team Sky. The British team confirmed that they had never used Xenon gas but they were not willing to comment further after a request was sent to interview one of their team doctors.
Roger Legeay, the head of the MPCC, the Movement for Credible Cycling, has petitioned WADA to ban Tramadol – a substance currently on the agency’s watchlist. He has already spoken to several teams in recent weeks and is hopeful that WADA will take a strong stance with Xenon, although he added he was not aware of its use in the peloton at present.
"After the Olympic Games, we heard these media reports about athletes treating themselves with Xenon, so the MPCC has asked WADA to take a stand on that and to add it to its list of banned substances. WADA's specialists will look at that during their next meeting," he told Cyclingnews.
"Team doctors came to me to say that Xenon should be on the list of banned products because it has nothing to do with sport. They said that we should ask WADA to take a stand on it, define its rules on methods like that and add the substance to its banned list."
The next MPCC meeting is set to take place around the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, at which point team doctors from the MPCC will discuss their next steps.
"From what doctors and team managers are saying, we don't have issues of Xenon [in cycling] at the moment, but I believe everybody wants to make sure we don’t have one in the future."