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Blood doping on the rise -

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Blood doping on the rise

The World Today - Tuesday, 1 July , 2008 12:42:00

Reporter: Simon Santow

ELEANOR HALL: When the Olympic Games begin next month, there's little doubt they will be
accompanied by questions about performance enhancing drugs.

But in Australia some of the stars of Rugby League and AFL are already raising eyebrows with a new
performance enhancing technique - they are injecting calves' blood to help them recover faster from

Authorities say that the practice is legal but some sports medicine experts disagree as Simon
Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles flew high in the NRL last year finishing runners up to
the Melbourne Storm.

This year they're again at the top of the table and reports suggest some of that high performance
is down to the use of calves' blood extract.

Actovegin is injected into the player who then supposedly benefits through improved stamina.

And, if injured, the player uses the substance to recover faster.

Robin Parisotto is a scientist, specialising in sport.

ROBIN PARISOTTO: The benefits are two-fold. Whether they actually work or not, no-one has actually
I guess, put it to the test under actual scientific study to study to prove it.

SIMON SANTOW: Would you say that it is increasingly popular? That it becoming the drug treatment of
choice for athletes?

ROBIN PARISOTTO: Look any drug that is not banned will be a source of temptation for any athlete
and any drug or supplement or pill or potion - every athlete will look at it as a potential source
or method to improve their performance.

SIMON SANTOW: Although you wouldn't expect athletes to be taking it if it didn't have a positive

ROBIN PARISOTTO: That is absolutely correct and with any substance, whatever, an athlete is not
going to continue to use it if it certainly detracts from their performance.

SIMON SANTOW: Are you aware Robin Parisotto of any side effects that this drug might have?

ROBIN PARISOTTO: My mind goes back to one of the cyclists in the Tour de France 2003. A Spanish
cyclist by the name of Jesus Manzano who took Actovegin. It was a concoction of Actovegin with
caffeine and a few other drugs and he claimed that after he took that concoction which included
Actovegin, soon after he began the race he actually collapsed during one of the hill climbs and he
put it down to the fact that the concoction had actually caused his collapse.

SIMON SANTOW: In AFL, some players have travelled to Germany to get access to doctors who use

The World Today contacted several NRL clubs - most said they'd considered using calves' blood but,
in the end, were happy to stick with their existing training methods.

Jeremy Hickmans is the Performance Director of the Brisbane Broncos Rugby league team.

JEREMY HICKMANS: You are always looking for that edge but you know, I think you have got to make
sure you get all the basics right first and any edge you are looking for is proven and has got a
good amount of research behind it.

SIMON SANTOW: And in this case, Actovegin have the Brisbane Broncos looked at using it?

JEREMY HICKMANS: Yeah, well it is one of those things that has been investigated in the past but a
lot of the research that I personally have seen isn't conclusive into the benefits of it. You know,
it is obviously something we do keep in mind but not something we use at present.

SIMON SANTOW: Many clubs said that so long as the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, approved the
drug for use by athletes, they would have no problem with Manly or anyone else using it to get an

Richard Ings is with the Australian Sports Anti Doping Authority.

He says the rules are relatively clear.

RICHARD INGS: Actovegin is not on the prohibited list therefore it is not a prohibited substance.
However any athlete using Actovegin intravenously could be classed as using a prohibited method and
a possible doping violation.

SIMON SANTOW: So in what way is it legal for Athletes to take Actovegin?

RICHARD INGS: Well, not being a prohibited substance, an athlete could take Actovegin as an
intra-muscular injection.

SIMON SANTOW: Sports Medicine expert Doctor Peter Larkins takes a much harder line.

PETER LARKINS: The IOC placed it on its banned list on 2000 because they were aware of widespread
use of Actovegin in Europe particularly in sports like cycling in the late 1990s and it is broadly
covered by the WADA guidelines because there is a clause that says anything that has the potential
to include or improve oxygen transport and one of the claims of this product by the manufacturer is
that it improves oxygen transport in the body.

SIMON SANTOW: So the fact that at least one rugby league team seems to be using it in Australia at
an elite level, what would that say to competitors of that team?

PETER LARKINS: Look, I believe that the product is being used very broadly around Australia by a
number of sporting teams, not just one particular team in Sydney.

It tells me that this particular product is being sought by athletes as a way of trying to gain a

ELEANOR HALL: That is Sports Medicine expert, Dr Peter Larkins, speaking there with Simon Santow.