As reported earlier today, Richie Rude and Jared Graves failed an anti-doping test
at round 3 of the Enduro World Series in Orlagues, with the drugs Higenamine and Oxilofrine in their systems.
We dug deeper into the drugs.
What have they tested positive for?
Jared and Richie have tested positive for two performance enhancing drugs, Higenamine and Oxilofrine. Both are explicitly banned by the World Anti Doping Authority (WADA) but they are listed as Specified Substances.
What is Higenamine?
Higenamine is a drug used to treat asthma and is part of the Beta2 Agonist class of drugs. All Beta2 Agonists are banned by WADA.
The most notorious of the Beta2 Agonists is Sulbutamol that Chris Froome returned an Adverse Analytical Finding for on Stage 18 of the 2017 Vuelta Espana. Chris Froome was allowed a certain dosage of Sulbutamol to combat his asthma and he was later cleared of any wrongdoing when the test was adjusted to take account of dehydration.
Unlike Sulbutamol, which is allowed in certain doses as a Therapeutic Use Exemption for asthma sufferers, Higenamine is totally banned in and out of competition.
Higenamine is a naturally occuring substance that is found in plants such as the Lotus and Chinese Wolfsbane and has a history of being used in traditional medicine. Higenamine is also a legal food supplement in Canada, the USA and the EU.
What does Higenamine do?
Beta2 Agonists relax the muscles that control the airways, allowing an athlete’s lungs to take in more oxygen and boost performance. Higenamine is also used as a fat burner in dietary supplements.
Who else has tested positive for Higenamine?
Most famously, Liverpool FC soccer player Mamadou Sakho was tested positive for Higenamine in April 2016 and was punished with a 30-day ban from European competition. This ban was overturned when Sakho argued that Higenamine was not explicitly listed as a Beta2 Agonist in WADA’s guidelines. It was officially added in October 2016.
Higenamine’s purported fat burning properties mean it can be found in some training supplements. The drug is known by many names and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority published an official warning
in August 2017 that 13 Australian athletes across nine sports had tested positive for Higenamine.
The supplement market is largely unregulated and it is ultimately an athlete’s responsibility to monitor what they are using and its legality. The WADA’s strict liability rule means that unintentional or negligent consumption does not absolve an athlete of responsibility.
What is Oxilofrine?
The other drug Jared and Richie tested positive for, Oxilofrine, is a stimulant and amphetamine. It is commonly used to treat low blood pressure in people who do not respond to conventional treatment.
What does Oxilofrine do?
Stimulants such as Oxilofrine increase focus, alertness and can reduce reaction times.
Oxilofrine also causes the body to produce more adrenaline, which has added performance benefits including boosting endurance, increasing the oxygenation of the blood and burning fat.
Who else has tested positive for Oxilofrine?
In one of the most famous doping cases in history, 100 metre sprinters Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay tested positive for Oxilofrine in 2013. Both athletes maintained they did not take it knowingly and their bans were overturned a year later.
A cyclist, Flavia Oliviera, was also popped for Oxilofrine in 2009. She unknowingly took it in a supplement known as HyperDrive 3.0+. Her two year sentence was reduced to 18 months after she proved it was not a labelled ingredient on the supplement.
What is a specified substance?
Higenamine and Oxilofrine are both specified substances. Specified Substances are a subcategory of prohibited substances that are not necessarily less potent but they do leave open the possibility of a reduced sentence through a plausible explanation.
WADA says that Specified Substances were introduced: “to recognize that it is possible for a substance to enter an athlete’s body inadvertently, and therefore allow a tribunal more flexibility when making a sanctioning decision.
“Specified” substances are not necessarily less effective doping agents than “Non-Specified” substances, nor do they relieve athletes of the strict liability rule that makes them responsible for all substances that enter their body.”
This means WADA acknowledges Higenamine and Oxilofrine can be taken accidentally and they may take this into account when it comes to sanctioning an athlete after a positive test.
Unlike other performance enhancing drugs, Specified Substances also do not warrant the instant “mandatory, provisional suspension” that is usually imposed when an athlete first tests positive for a banned substance. This explains why the riders were allowed to compete at Petzen, La Thuille and Whistler, despite a positive test.
What kind of sanctions are expected?
Each case is individual to that athlete and their circumstances but we can look at other recent cases to see what sort of sanctions to expect.
If previous sanctions are any indication, Jared and Richie may see some results to be stripped and a ban to be imposed. Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) has published three cases of Higenamine violations
combined with other substances on its sanctions website and they all carried bans of at least 18 months. The website has no mention of Oxilofrine punishments.
The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has sanctions for Higenamine ranging from nine months to four years and two cases of Oxilofrine abuse, one with a six-month sanction and one with 18 months.
Until now, the EWS has not had to impose sanctions due to banned substances.