Competition is connatural to the human nature and it has substantially contributed to evolution and survival, often revealing as an unconditional inclination to dominance. Although success in competition can be traditionally achieved through intensive training and categorical mental attitude, celebrity and economical benefits ensued from success in competitive sports have always persuaded the athletes to use alternative, occasionally unfair and dangerous means to enhance their athletic performances. There is rather a long history of fraud in sport competitions, which founds its origin in remote times. However, revolutionary advances in biology and biochemistry have profoundly distorted this scenario, providing the unfair athletes with sophisticated performance enhancing substances and techniques (1). On the evidence of a widespread use of illicit and potentially harmful manoeuvres, several sport federations, in teamwork with the medical community, have adopted increasingly complicated and comprehensive systems of control to overcome the gory problem of doping in sports. Despite the full commitment of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Cycling Union (ICU), there is evidence that athletes are testing positive at antidoping controls on a regular basis. The very recent Tour de France 2006 saga is disappointing. The cycling fans have always thought that the greatest cycling competition in the world, next in term of audience and media involvement to the Olympics and the football Word Championships, was an endurance race where cycling performance and some sort of racing ability would have represented the main requisites to wear the yellow jersey in Paris. However, the recent developments are profoundly altering this scenario, transforming the Tour in an elimination race. Just 24 hours ahead of the prologue start in Strasbourg, nine riders from five teams were ruled out of the race, suspected to be implicated in an international doping probe based on blood transfusions and involving more than 200 athletes of different sport disciplines. This huge doping scandal, conventionally known as the “affair Fuentes”, set out in an unadorned apartment in Madrid, where the Spanish police discovered a clandestine structures of the international performance enhancement business, seizing more than two hundreds blood bags, along with doping records and several other doping substances. Apparently, the investigators were able to match code names of athletes with their highly detailed doping records (2). In the prosecution, the American rider Floyd Landis, who worn the 2006 yellow jersey in Paris, tested positive for unusual levels of testosterone after winning stage 17 and is now set to lose his title. This was not enough. Runner-up Oscar Pereiro of Spain, the athlete who would have been probably awarded of the yellow jersey, is under investigation for testing positive at the banned substance salbutamol. Metabolites of this drug, often prescribed for asthma, were discovered by the French anti-doping body (AFLD) in Pereiro's urine sample after the stages 14 and 16. Although the authority of the AFLD is limited to French soil only, Pereiro will risk not taking part in the 2007 Tour and could be stripped of second place in the 2006 race. These disappointing events deserve some profound considerations...
- laboratory testing
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