Marker molecule, a nice try but…

Velonation have a good piece on a potential agreement with some of the big pharmaceutical companies regarding the use of a “marker molecule”. Basically this is an extra ingredient to a pharmaceutical product that will show up in a blood or urine sample from an athlete. So whilst some of the actual doping products are invisible to doping controls, this magic molecule is the equivalent of a red flag or a flashing light.

Now it’s a good idea and great news that the companies in question are doing this. But will it catch anyone? I suspect not.

Athletes and their “doctors” will be aware of the use of these molecules and will simply substitute the product for another. Above all, the cheats will turn to less reputable sources to “score” their doping products.

When Manolo Saiz was caught at the start of Operacion Puerto, he was discovered with a range of doping products. Similar items were found in the Madrid clinic at the heart of the scandal. Only a lot of this turned out to be illegally-made substances, copycat drugs made in labs in China and Eastern Europe. Clearly no shady lab producing these products for the benefit of dopers will include a tracer molecule.

Velonation and WADA are hailing this as a major boost but I fear it won’t achieve much. It is absolutely the right thing to do but let’s not place too much hope in this. Maybe a few idiots will be caught, but if you and I are reading about this, sadly you can be sure the cheats will be a step ahead already.