Claims Russian athletes used xenon gas during the Sochi 2014 Olympics, which is said to increase the levels of erythropoietin (EPO) in the body, is to be investigated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Academic studies suggest using the gas artificially increases EPO in the blood, which is forbidden under WADA rules.
German broadcaster WDR has claimed members of the Russian team at Sochi inhaled the “performance enhancing” gas and alleges top Russian athletes have been using xenon to improve their performance as far back as the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.
The production of EPO in the body encourages the formation of red blood cells which improves performance, particularly in the endurance events.
WADA President Sir Craig Reedie has said it “will take on the issue”.
When contacted by insidethegames, a WADA spokesperson would not comment on the proposed investigation, saying the “WADA list committee will be holding its next meeting in April, as it does annually, and will discuss any current matters at that time”.
The head of Russia’s Federal Biomedical Agency (FMBA), Vladimir Uiba, has indicated Russian athletes may indeed have been using xenon gas but claimed it was not illegal.
“Xenon is not an illegal gas,” Uiba is reported to have told Russian news agencies.
“We have a principle not to use what is forbidden by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).”
“It is possible that our sportsmen have been using xenon inhalators but there is nothing wrong with that.
“We use what is not illegal, is not destructive and does not have side effects.”
Russia topped the medal table at this year’s Winter Olympic Games, winning 13 golds, including Alexander Legkov in the men’s 50 kilometres mass start cross country event as he led a clean-sweep for the home nation.
No Russian athletes failed a drugs test during the Games, which saw six athletes banned for committing doping violations, including cross-country skiers Johannes Duerr from Austria and Ukraine’s Marina Lisogor and German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle.
But biathlete Irina Starykh was dropped from the Russian team days before the start of the Games after she admitted to using a banned substance.
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