And one more on xenoandrogens and doping (from July 2011)
Doping is bad. It’s not only unfair, it’s also unhealthy. Or at least it used to be… Anti-doping crusaders had it easy when persuading us about the ills of anabolic steroids: liver damage, testosterone inhibition, vascular and sometimes heart-tissue damage, increased LDL are all scary side-effects, not to mention the devastation that anabolic steroids are causing among teenagers, who are prone to suffer more from hormonal drugs.
But with the onset of novel (and harmless) muscle-growth stimulants, the crusade becomes harder to defend.
Some 10 years ago it seemed that the most promising muscle-growth stimulants of the future will be myostatin inhibitors (or myostatin blockers). That made sense – myostatin is a protein that actually inhibits the unlimited muscle growth. So by inhibiting the inhibitor, your muscles should get huge with just the required protein intake. Muscular Piedmontese bulls with inherited genetic trait that blocks the myostatin were brought as a shining example of the possible results. However, after several years of unsuccessful trials, most researchers gave up the idea that myostatin inhibition is possible in humans in the near future.
Considering the fiasco with myostatin blockers, xenohormones came as a huge surprise. It should have not: we knew for decades that certain proteins present in soy and other vegetable (as well as some synthetic products like plastic bottles) have effects similar to estrogen hormone. Phytoestrogens (estrogen-like compounds present in plants) or xenoestrogens (“foreign” estrogen-like compounds of any origin) can cause male infertility and many other estrogenic effects.
But until recently, we knew of no naturally occurring xenoandrogen, or testosterone-like substance found in the nature. Natural xenoandrogens might well not exist, there are however artificial xenoandrogens produced by small alterations in naturally occurring tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Such modified tocopherols/tocotrienols are almost indistinguishable from existing anabolic steroid drugs. And that’s the problem – or at least a huge challenge for anti-doping authorities who are caught completely unprepared and hapless.
Being most similar to vitamin E, modified tocopherols are obviously legal. So far, not side-effects are known and so there is even no reason to categorize them as prescription drugs.
At 2011 swimming championship in Shanghai, the Russian team doctor has been caught with what looked very much like anabolic steroids. The vials have been tested but no hormones found. The case looked like a double embarrassment for the team: they were caught red-handed with anabolic steroids, which were even fake… But later the anti-doping committee realized that the Russians had something completely new and legal: modified tocopherols from European producer. The team grabbed 3rd place in Shanghai, what it means for the future of doping remains to be seen…
I found an interesting interview concerning modified tocopherols/tocotrienols. This is a translation from Czech language:
Legally available anabolic steroid equivalents are commercially available only since the second half of 2011 but some professional athletes are apparently using them since early 2010.
The first mention of the use of xenohormones by top athletes in official media (by Associated Press) was the news about the Russian swimming team using them at 2011 World Championship in Shanghai.
There are, however, many signs that a growing number of professionals are using modified tocopherols and tocotrienols as a legal and undetectable alternative to “real” anabolic steroids.
WADA-AMA, the international anti-doping body, estimates that by 2014 more than 80% of all abused substances will be xenohormones.*
This is an excerpt from interview with the representative of Czech national anti-doping agency Ales Vetchy, published 8th of August 2011 in the daily “Sport” (translation from Czech).
Q: Mr. Vetchy, can you tell us more about xenoandrogens?
A: We don’t know much about these substances. We are dealing with them only since the beginning of this year. So far, the international bodies didn’t ban it so we are closely following the new developments. It will probably take another year or two to create complete guidelines and develop reliable testing.
Q: Is it true that xenohormones are more common in this country than in the rest of the World?
A: Yes, that’s apparently correct. At least we get this impression when comparing our data with that of our colleagues abroad. But I think it has nothing to do with cheating and everything to do with the fact that the only producer of modified tocopherols is located in our country.
Q: When we speak of modified tocopherols, what should we imagine?
A: The basic substance is very similar to vitamin E. It is the molecular modification that makes it anabolic/androgenic. These substances are only known since 2008 so it’s virtually impossible to find experts knowledgeable in this particular field of biology.
Q: Do you plan to ban modified tocopherols?
A: We do not make such decisions. It’s up to the international association to decide and we will implement the decision.
Q: Are xenohormones harmful?
A: At this stage it’s too early to say. It takes years to test a new drug. Modified tocopherols are now legal just as tocopherol and tocotrienol.
Q: Do you think that xenohormones should be banned even if proven harmless?
A: Doping is not only about abusing harmless substance. First and foremost, it is unfair. Athletes with access to doping have an edge over those who don’t. From what we know, xenohormones are potent anabolic and androgenic compounds and in my opinion should be banned even before we completely understand their way of action.
First let me introduce myself. My name is Michael and I’m 42 years old full-time bodybuilding coach. I was mentor to several BB champions from continental Europe since 1990’s and you can imagine that I do know something on anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
As we all know, bodybuilding is a sport literally dependent on steroids. But in recent years the new anti-steroid laws made me and all my colleagues nothing short of a drug dealer. Yes, in my country – and in most other Western countries – there is not much of a difference today between the legal status of cocaine and, say, nandrolone or tren.
Well – I was looking for alternatives. Prohormones were a good solution for several years. Some guys didn’t respond to them but most did, although it sometimes took no less than 4-5 months to adjust the dosage and all. Then the EU criminal laws included prohormones and we had to begin from the scratch.
In March 2010 I met my relative who was at that time closely working with a team studying modified tocopherols/tocotrienols and their possible use in testosterone-replacement therapy. I became immediately interested and he managed to bring me some samples from the university lab.
So I guess I was among the first coaches in the World that had the privilege to experiment with xenoandrogens.This blog is about what I learned, and hopefully what I will learn in the future.
This is not a commercial blog and I don’t look for sponsors. I will never promote any commercial company so please do not contact me with advertisement – I will always be independent and critical.