Roche helps catch cheating athletes

The campaign against sports cheats has found a new ally in Big Pharma. Roche says it collaborated with anti-doping experts to help catch Tour de France athletes who used its anemia drug Mircera--known as CERA in sports circles--to boost their cycling performance. And now, drug watchdogs will be using that assistance to check the stored blood samples of Olympians, double-checking the honesty of medal-winning athletes.

Roche teamed up with the World Anti-Doping agency in 2004, when clinical trials showed that CERA could help athletes perform better. Together they developed a test to detect athletes' use of the drug. That lab screen found that three stage winners in the 2008 Tour used CERA to boost their ability to compete.

"We were very pleased that this collaboration with WADA has been productive," Roche spokeswoman Claudia Schmitt told the Associated Press. "We are really not happy to see Mircera misused for doping, or to see it in the sports world."

- read the story in the International Herald Tribune