Oliver Catlin, the president of the Banned Substances Controlled Group but more widely-known as the son of famed anti-doping pioneer Don Catlin, believes that Russian athletes may be using undetectable performance-enhancing medicines developed in Eastern Europe. Catlin thinks drug testers are too focused on Western medicines and have failed to pay attention to potentially performance-enhancing Eastern European medicines.
“Drug testing is a Western-focused business and industry, Western medicine,” said Oliver Catlin. “I believe there’s Eastern European medicine options that would be good doping choices that are not being considered to be added to the prohibited list, simply because they’re Eastern European medicines.”
The current state of drug detection technology is far from ideal. Even when drug testers know exactly which anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) they are looking for, they often fail to detect them. It is a cat-and-mouse game where athletes are often one or two steps ahead of the drug testers. The fact of the matter is that athletes routinely use steroids and PEDs and get away with it in spite of regular drug testing.
Now imagine if there is a PED that is not explicitly banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and WADA Code. This means two things. Drug testers are usually not even looking for it. And even if they were looking for it, athletes are allowed to use those drugs because it is not against the rules.
Catlin presented no evidence to suggest that the use of performance-enhancing Eastern European medications unknown to Western drug testers was a widespread problem. However, it doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility that Russian and other Eastern European athletes have come across such drugs.
For example, WADA discovered that the drug Mildronat (meldoium) was being used by practically all Russian and Eastern European athletes. Meldonium was not recognized as a prohibited PED at the time but its widespread use by elite athletes raised several eyebrows.
Meldonium was developed and manufactured in Latvia by the pharmaceutical company Grindex. It was indicated as a treatment of angina and myocardial ischemia. The anti-ischemic drug worked by enhancing and increasing blood flow to the heart.
WADA found it odd that so many healthy, elite athletes were truly crippled by such serious heart problems. It turned out that meldonium was also quite effective at enhancing oxygen uptake, extending athletic endurance and enhancing recovery.
WADA ultimately added meldonium to its List of Prohibited Substances. If Catlin is to be believed, there are likely several other East European drugs with performance-enhancing properties that are currently going undetected. Catlin has proposed that WADA invest additional resources to identify other potential PEDs sold in Eastern European pharmacies.
Peter, J. (September 3, 2018). BALCO figures offer how to rid sports of doping 15 years after scandal. Retrieved from usatoday.com/story/sports/2018/09/03/balco-doping-peds-five-steps-rid-sports/1182307002/