Monday, February 16, 2009

Amgen and Blood Doping

Blood Doping - What Is It?

Found it interesting that the sponsor of the Tour of California, Amgen, is the international biotechnology company headquartered in southern California that produces Epogen, an EPO which is used as a performance-enhancing drug or blood doping.

EPO drugs, such as Amgen's Epogen, have become best-sellers for their ability to relieve anemia-related fatigue and allow kidney patients to forestall regular blood transfusions but obviously has other uses as well. (From 2007 article NEJM- Caught Covering Up for National Kidney Foundation--an indudstry front group)

In May 2007, Bjarne Riis, Rolf Aldag, Erik Zabel, and Brian Holm, all former members of the Telekom cycling team, admitted to using EPO during their cycling careers in the mid-1990s. Riis also relinquished his title as champion of the 1996 Tour de France. EPO was again a factor in the various doping scandals at the 2007 Tour de France, including the suspension of Spanish cyclist, Iban Mayo.

Tour de France rider Alexander Vinokourov, of the Astana Team, tested positive for two different blood cell populations and thus for homologous transfusion, according to various news reports on July 24, 2007. Vinokourov was tested after his victory in the 13th stage time trial of the Tour on July 21, 2007. A doping test is not considered to be positive until a second sample is tested to confirm the first. Vinokourov's B sample has now tested positive, and he faces a possible suspension of 2 years and a fine equal to one year's salary. He also tested positive after stage 15.

Vinokourov's teammate Andrej Kashechkin also tested positive for homologous blood doping on August 1st, 2007, just a few days after the conclusion of the 2007 Tour de France (a race that had been dominated by doping scandals). His team withdrew after the revelation that Vinokourov had doped.

According to Russian investigators, 19-year-old New York Rangers prospect and Russian hockey player Alexei Cherepanov was engaged in blood doping for several months before he died on October 13th, 2008, after collapsing on the bench during a game in Russia. He also had myocarditis. (source)

List of doping cases in cycling

News articles on blood doping


  1. The reason Amgen sponsors the AToC is to show their support for anti-doping in sport. They promote the positive side of EPO, that of a life saver for patients with low red blood cell counts. Instead of running from controversy, they attack in head on, by insisting on multiple in competition tests for all riders during the Tour while lauding the necessity of having drug like EPO for patients who really need it. Does their sponsorship make more sense now?

  2. Sounds honorable but I don't trust Big Pharma as let's face it, their bottom line concern is profit, not people.

    According to wikipedia, blood doping in cycling is on the rise - individuals, doctors and biotech companies who encourage this practice should be held accountable.

    According this article, Amgen is having other problems with its anemia drugs:

    And what about this 2008 article: Amgen Must Stand Trial For Allegedly Inflating Stock

    And there are over 1100 wrongful termination lawsuits at Amgen.

    That's just doing a quick search on Amgen - wonder what else we'd find we dug a little deeper? I shudder to think.

    Thanks for your comment.


  3. Found this 2008 commentary interesting:

    Pharmaceutical Companies Sponsoring Pro Bodybuilding Contests?

    Posted on 02:33 January 25th, 2008 by Millard Baker

    Could you imagine a pharmaceutical company (whose top-selling drugs are anabolic steroids) becoming the title sponsor of a professional bodybuilding contest? What is Unimed, whose top selling drug products are Anadrol-50 (oxymetholone) and AndroGel (testosterone), sponsored the Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding contest resulting in the “Unimed Pharmaceuticals IFBB Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding Championships”?!! Or how about Savient, whose top-selling drug product is Oxandrin (oxandrolone), sponsoring the Arnold Classic resulting in the Savient Pharmaceuticals IFBB Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic Bodybuilding Championships?!! Observers would comment on the irony given that professional bodybuilding is practically synonymous with the use of anabolic steroids.

    Interestingly, in the sport of professional cycling, such an unlikely sponsorship has been taking place since 2006 when the biotechnology company Amgen became the title sponsor of professional cycling’s Amgen Tour of California. One prominent cycling commentator called it the “death of irony.” You see, Amgen’s most successful product to date is Epogen (recombinant erythropoietin); it’s second best-selling drug is a long-acting version of Epogen called Aranesp (darbepoietin). Epogen is the most notorious performance-enhancing drug in cycling; Epogen is to professional cycling what anabolic steroids are to professional bodybuilding!

    If the controversial title sponsorship was not enough, Tour of California organizers accidentally forgot to drug test riders for Epogen during the inaugural 2006 Amgen Tour of California. They tested for all other banned drugs but simply forgot to test for Epogen!

    And why is Amgen spending $35 million sponsorship over a 5-year commitment on professional cycling? Is it because professional cyclist represent proof of the miraculous performance-enhancing effects of their products? Not exactly. Amgen’s scientific director Dr. Steven Elliott explains:

    "Our opportunity is to educate cyclists that there is an appropriate way to use a drug, and doping in sport is not it… Our medicines were made because we want to treat grievous illnesses. They’re not for enhancing performance in sport."

    I think the sport of professional bodybuilding could use a $35 million infusion by a giant pharmaceutical company who manufacturers anabolic steroids and/or human growth hormone who could use the sponsorship as an opportunity to promote the therapeutic benefits of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

    But then again, along with the Amgen sponsorship of the Tour of California came pressure to expand anti-doping testing and improve anti-doping procedures.

    "The upcoming 2008 Amgen Tour of California cycling road race will adopt the most comprehensive anti-doping protocol in cycling history it was announced by Andrew Messick, president, AEG Sports, presenter of the race, at a press conference today."

    This is something that professional bodybuilding probably does not want.



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Over the years my opinions have changed but this will never change: Jesus Christ, Lord, God and Savior, died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay for my sin.