CERA: the new EPO discovered at the Tour de France


The head of the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) Pierre Bordry has confirmed that Riccardo Ricco, Moises Duenas and Manuel Beltran all tested positive for CERA, the third generation form of EPO.

CERA or Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator is a new form of EPO, created by the Swiss company Roche, that has been created to help dialysis patients or people with kidney problems.

The drug stimulates the kidneys to produce EPO which in turn stimulates the bone marrow to increase the creation of red blood cells. More red blood cells allow the body to carry more oxygen and so increases an athlete's performance.

CERA, or Mircera as it is known commercially, has been approved for medical use in Switzerland and Australia and is close to final approval across Europe. Roche applied to sell the drug in the USA last year but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refused to approve the drug for use in the USA because it infringed patents belonging to the original creator and producer of EPO, the US-based Amgen, that sponsors the Tour of California.

CERA offers benefits over older forms of EPO because it is has a slower release rate or creation of red blood cells in the body. For patients that means fewer injections, perhaps even just once a month, and lower health care costs for hospitals. For athletes it means they can take the blood booster less frequently and so reduce the risk of being caught because EPO is difficult to detect a few days after it has been injected.

A test for EPO was first introduced for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. CERA is on the WADA list of banned products but it seems that riders thought that the test was unable to find CERA. WADA is known to be working on a test but it seems the testers have caught up with the dopers far quicker than anyone expected.

Three riders have been so far in this year?s Tour de France and now the worry is that other riders could have taken CERA. The AFLD have confirmed that other riders have been tested several times in the first half of the Tour de France and so in theory, other riders could result positive for CERA in the next few days.

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Stage 11: Arvesen wins

Stage 10: Evans takes yellow jersey by one second

Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees

Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse

Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage

Stage six: Ricco storms to win

Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

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Analysis: Tour de France rest day summary

Cavendish battles through Pyrenees

Evans suffers but takes yellow jersey [stage 10]

Analysis: Hautacam shakes up 2008 Tour

Ricco silences critics with solo attack in Pyrenees [stage nine]

Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]

Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders

David Millar: the dope controls are working

Manuel Beltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour

Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit

Doping back in Tour de France headlines

Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]

Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]

Millar to go for yellow [stage six]

Team Columbia's reaction to Cavendish's win [stage five]

Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]

Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]

Who is Romain Feillu?

Cavendish disappointed with stage two result

Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey

Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?

Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec

Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win

Comment: Is Valverde's win a good thing for the Tour?

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Stage 11

Stage 11

Stage 10

Stage nine

Stage eight

Stage seven

Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

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Life at the Tour part three

Life at the Tour part two

Life at the Tour part one

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