London, Aug 1 : With the Beijing Olympics just around the corner, there's a new threat looming over the Games - two new undetectable drugs that could make all the difference to winning that precious gold medal.
The pills are believed to mimic the physiological effects of exercise, and scientists claim that the drugs are already available and can be easily synthesised
However, there is no existing test to reveal their presence- a revelation which according to UK Sport, the government-funded agency, was a "cause for concern". They have also informed the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Tested only on mice, the drugs turned the animals into mini-marathon runners, with powers of stamina that allowed them to far outrun untreated mice.
One of the drugs, called AICAR, has already been dubbed the "couch potato's dream" as it boosted the running time by 44 per cent in "sedentary" mice which had done no exercise at all.
This drug short-circuits the signals normally triggered by exercise that guide cells to burn fat, lower blood sugar and suppress inflammation, thus releasing more energy.
"This is a drug that is like pharmacological exercise. We were blown away. After four weeks of receiving the drug the mice were behaving as if they had been exercised," The Independent quoted Professor Ronald Evans, who led the research at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, as saying.
The second drug, called GW1516, showed a much larger impact in combination with exercise. Scientists said that it has a simple chemical structure that would be easy to synthesise.
Treated mice ran for 77 per cent longer and covered a 68 per cent greater distance than animals that exercised without the drug.
However, it is feared that the drugs could be abused by athletes.
"Drugs that improve health are not only going to be used by people who have medical problems. They may also be used by people who are healthy or by athletes who want an edge," he said.
The researchers collaborated with the World Anti-Doping Agency, and developed a test to detect the two compounds, but it is unlikely it will be ready for the opening of the Olympics in Beijing in two weeks' time.
A spokeswoman for the British Olympic Association said the association's chief medical officer in Beijing, Dr Ian McCurdie, was aware of the drugs.
Story first published: Friday, August 1, 2008, 11:09 [IST]
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