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WADA bans xenon gas

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced on Sunday that it is adding xenon gas to its list of banned substances.

Xenon, a noble gas which has been found to increase the body’s production of erythropoietin (EPO), was used by Russian athletes at the Sochi Winter Olympics earlier this year where Russia took home the most medals. Reports suggest athletes in that country have been using the substance for over a decade to increase performance.

By increasing EPO in the blood, an athlete can also increase red blood cells, making the use of xenon especially useful for endurance athletes such as runners, cyclists and cross-country skiers.

The drug is currently untraceable in an athlete’s system, but large fluctuations in red blood cell counts in a short period of time can be detected by recent advances in biological passports.

WADA’s executive committee banned xenon gas through a unanimous decision. The ban, along with a ban on the inhalation of argon, another noble gas with similar effects as xenon, will come into effect after 90 days, giving national sport anti-doping bodies time to integrate the change.

Both xenon and argon have also been added to the prohibitive substances list, meaning athletes will not be allowed to possess them.

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