The rise of cycling's new easy-access EPO pill

With two positive tests in the last month for blood booster pill FG-4592, experts warn of the dangers of taking the EPO style drug that is easily available online

Cycling celebrated the Tour de France over the last month, but elsewhere at the same time it saw its first two positive tests for a new easy-to-use EPO pill. The FG-4592 drug is similar to blood booster EPO, available on the internet and is not yet suited for human consumption.

Italian rider Fabio Taborre returned a positive test for the new pill and was provisionally suspended on Monday. Carlos Oyarzun of Chile was banned from the 2015 Pan American Games in July after testing positive for the drug.

Both cyclists have the right to request analysis of their B sample to confirm or refute the findings.

Unlike black-market shopping or ordering supplies from China, that may or may not be what one meant to buy, the purchase of FG-4592 is straightforward. Find a reputable chemical supply website on the internet, say you are a researcher and order with a credit card.

>>> Italian Championships runner-up, Reda, tests positive for EPO

The danger is that FG-4592 is still in its research phase so its affects are unknown. Unlike EPO, which is injected, the drug comes in pill form. It boosts red blood cells and improves performance, but is already on the authorities' radar.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) already put it on its banned substances list, which cycling and other governing bodies refer to for their testing. Prior to cycling's first two positives, French race-walker Bertrand Moulinet tested positive for the drug in April.

Don Catlin, an anti-doping expert, told The New York Times, "What's amazing to me is that it is out there for sale on the Internet."

Human consumption "would be highly inadvisable," said Gregory W. Endres of Cayman Chemical, which sells FG-4592.

"This is a research chemical, for research purposes. Things go through the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] for a reason."

The UCI, cycling's governing body, suspended team Androni for 30 days after Taborre's and Davide Appollonio's drug positives. As a result, the Italian team will miss the RideLondon-Surrey Classic and other races.

The FG-4592 is the latest in a string of pills, including GW1516 and AICAR, that are popping up in sport. GW1516 caused higher rates of cancer in laboratory rats, but did not stop some cyclists from consuming it and testing positive.

FG-4592's long-term affects are unknown, but, after the first positives this July, it will likely produce more positives in cycling given its availability and ease of use.

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