Did HSV professional Mario Vuskovic, who tested positive, actually dope with Epo? Or is there another explanation? Experts believe intentional abuse is likely.
HSV is touring through the USA during the World Cup break – but at home in Hamburg the tree is on fire at the second division soccer team. The positive doping test by Mario Vuskovic, who was committed at great expense and with all sorts of hopes, caught the sportingly successful Hanseatic League by surprise.
The blood doping agent erythropoietin (Epo) was analyzed in the A sample of a test that the 21-year-old submitted after training on September 16. The central defender has been temporarily suspended by the German Football Association (DFB). Nothing has been proven without a doubt until the result of the requested B-sample, but the evidence seems to be overwhelming.
Genetic predisposition at Vuskovic?
“The fact that the B sample does not confirm the result of the A sample is a very rare event,” says Mario Thevis in an interview with “Zeit”. The professor at the Sports University in Cologne heads the Institute for Biochemistry there, which is one of the laboratories accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). According to the “Hamburger Morgenpost”, Vuskovic wants to prove his innocence with a medical report. There is a rare genetic condition in which the body produces more red blood cells.
However, doping expert Thevis does not consider this a plausible trigger. “Before a positive finding is reported to the anti-doping organization, we check for the presence of this rare variant of human erythropoietin. If this is the case, accordingly, no positive test result is determined,” said Thevis. “If someone produces a lot of endogenous epo, that will not lead to a positive finding. High-altitude training camps also ensure that more endogenous epo is present. And that’s not a violation of anti-doping rules.”
NADA: “Intentional use likely”
“It is extremely unlikely that someone would be contaminated with Epo without noticing it,” said Hamburg sports doctor Klaus-Michael Braumann in an interview with NDR. After all, erythropoietin is not taken as a pill, but administered intravenously or by injection into the skin. This is another reason why the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) considers “intentional use to be probable”.
According to the relevant literature, scientists succeeded in cloning the human erythropoietin gene around 40 years ago. The increased number of red blood cells caused by the synthetically produced Epo improves the oxygen absorption capacity – and can thus increase endurance, but also lead to thrombosis (clotting of the blood) and circulatory failure. When it comes to doping practices, Epo is to be distinguished from blood doping with one’s own blood or someone else’s blood, which has been known primarily in cycling since the affair involving the Spanish doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
Suspension, fine or even imprisonment?
WADA classifies Epo as a “Prohibited Substance and Method at all times”. If the B sample confirms the result, Vuskovic faces a ban of up to four years and legal consequences. Because not only the DFB investigates, but also the public prosecutor’s office, which prosecutes the so-called self-doping based on the anti-doping law agreed a few years ago between the federal government and organized sport. Misuse can be punished with a fine or imprisonment for up to three years. HSV, on the other hand, does not have to fear any consequences according to the legal and procedural rules of the DFB.
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NDR 2 Sports | 15.11.2022 | 11:03 p.m