Magyar Antidopping Csoport

Cobalt is the old-new enemy 2015-03-12

Friday, 6 February 2015

Nobody will become an Olympic champion from Béres drops, but for top athletes it is forbidden to take them. One of its ingredients has made it to the prohibited list, in the most serious category, as it facilitates the production of EPO, the well-known performance enhancement.

„You aren’t calling me because of Béres drops, are you? You are not the first”, answers the phone Dr. Ágnes Tiszeker, the head of the Hungarian Anti-Doping Group. The initial question signifies that her days cannot be not boring.

Athletes, sport organisations and civilians have called her since it turned out that cobalt and all of its derivatives, except for Vitamin D12, Cobalamin, had been put on the prohibited list of the World Anti-Doping Organisation, WADA.

“It is not a new story, as the role of Cobalt in doping has been written about for nearly ten years”, begins dr. Tiszeker. “The question became more significant after the Winter Olympics in Sochi, when the doping scandal broke out around Russian athletes. They produced high EPO- levels, but it could not be proven that these happened because of synthetic EPO. This was how it turned out that they increased their HIF-factor by the use of Argon and Xenon (the body reacts to the condition lacking oxygen with producing blood cells).

WADA, very differently from the usual, put the two noble gases on its prohibited list on 1 September. Argon and Xenon are the activators of HIF-factor, Cobalt is its stabiliser.

Therefore, WADA also put all derivatives of Cobalt on the prohibited list from 1 January, except for Vitamin D12, without defined amounts. In the majority of cases multivitamin-producers use B12 in their products, except Béres, which uses Cobalt instead.

When HUNADO received the list its first task was to check all the products which have been licensed in Hungary. This is when Béres drops and Béres Extra were caught. As the use of Cobalt is not limited by the amount top athletes are not allowed to use these products as they may have a problem at the doping test.
The expert claims that the members of civilian society, the elderly with weaker muscles, children and mothers who would like to get stronger should not be afraid of the substance, as there is Cobalt in natural sources as spinach and leguminous vegetables as well, it is not toxic, it does not pollute. Cobalt went on the prohibited list to ban its abuse.

According to the expert Béres drops probably don’t have a serious performance enhancement effect. Cobalt itself may have it, but not in the amount it is found in the immune strengthening product. Therefore, she stresses, they are not against Béres, only that top athletes are not allowed to take these products.
Those who had previously used the products don’t have to be afraid, either, as the detection time of Cobalt is short. Moreover, it does not really enhance performance in sport, although its presence gives rise to a suspicion.

Dr. Tiszeker has already contacted the director of science of Béres to find a solution for this product considered a “Hungaricum”, whether it could be produced without Cobalt. In her view the problem won’t be solved in a short time because of its protected compound or getting new licenses.