A few grains of household soap powder can destroy the banned drug EPO in an athlete’s urine sample, wrecking a test that cost $2 million (Rs7.9 crore) to develop, said Mario Thevis, an anti-doping researcher in Cologne, Germany.
Scientists made the discovery after a former Tour de France cyclist said he was given an unidentified powder to sabotage surprise tests, said Thevis, who works at the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited biochemistry unit of German Sports University. “One or two tiny little granules of washing powder are all that is needed,” Thevis said last week. Synthetic EPO, or erythropoietin, was developed to treat anaemia by increasing red blood cell production. Athletes take it illegally to improve endurance. Authorities began checking competitors for it at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. “Cheats appear to have found a way around the test with backyard science,” said Robin Parisotto, a researcher in Canberra, Australia, who helped develop the test for the drug. The International Olympic Committee and the Australian government spent $2 million to develop the test, he said in a telephone interview 26 October from his home.
Thevis, one of the researchers in the study, said anti-doping authorities may need to start checking for protease, a class of enzymes that destroys EPO and is in soap powder, dish-washing solution and contact-lens cleaner.
The body uses naturally occurring enzymes to break down proteins, such as EPO. The drug is sold as Aranesp by Amgen Inc. and Procrit by Johnson & Johnson. They were among the world’s Top-20 selling drugs last year, generating $7.3 billion between them.
Skin cancer: some FAQs
What is it?
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. The first two are slow-growing and easy to treat, but malignant melanoma is a dangerous cancer that spreads very quickly.
What are the factors that could lead to it?
Fair skin, light coloured hair and eyes, regular exposure to the sun and a history of sunburn.
What are the signs?
Asymmetrical moles, moles that have ragged or irregular borders, moles that vary in colour and moles that are larger than a pencil’s eraser. Moles or growths that don’t have these characteristics may also be skin cancers and patients should get their doctors to regularly examine moles and skin blemishes.
Early treatment is absolutely essential. For almost all non-melanoma skin cancers and for early melanomas, surgery to remove the cancer and a small amount of surrounding tissue is all that is necessary. If a melanoma has spread, chemotherapy can be used, but it is not usually effective. (Reuters)
(Sources: World Health Organization, Association for International Cancer Research, Dermatology Research Centre at the Chinese University of Hong Kong).