Actovegin in sports

Actovegin in sports

There are many performance enhancing drugs in sports and one of the least known but often used is Actovegin. It came on the doping stage quietly and from causing many scandals and being secret agent in world of doping, it has come all the way to be available to buy Actovegin online.

Actovegin is a biological drug that is used for the treatment of sports muscle injuries. It is a physiological amino acid mixture made up of the extract of calve’s blood.

Actovegin benefits include enhancing cellular metabolism and respiration. The drug enables glucose into the muscle cell faster and aids the burning of that fuel to happen more efficiently.

Among other Actovegin benefits are improving glucose absorption and oxygen uptake in tissue, and enhancing physical performance and stamina. It functions in a similar vein to other calf blood derivatives, it can be compared to fetal bovine serum (FBS), which is well known for its established role in maintaining cell viability.

Actovegin was first marketed in Germany in 1976. It was produced by Nycomed GmbH from Austria until the company was taken over by Takeda Pharmaceutical Ltd from Japan in 2015.

Actovegin Takeda has not been marketed in North America but has been promoted and sold as a therapeutic product in East Asia, Austria, Russia, The Commonwealth of Independent States, and some Eastern European countries. Among the first users of Actovegin Takeda were track and field athletes, cyclists and Actovegin also entered bodybuilding.

How does Actovegin work?

Actovegin is a physiological amino acid mixture made up of the extract of calve’s blood, ultra-filtered calf serum sourced from calves below 8 months old. This blood goes through many repetitions of ultrafiltration processing. This removes all the protein from the blood and leaves a concoction of unknown molecules, including protein fragments, intermediaries of steroid hormones, amino acids, and sugars, to name a few.

The way in which it works is that it enhances cellular metabolism and respiration. The drug enables glucose into the muscle cell faster and aids the burning of that fuel to happen more efficiently. It has previously been shown to improve the transportation and utilization of oxygen and glucose, activates the aerobic routes of energy metabolism, and improve the functional state of the central nervous system. Actovegin has been shown to provide considerable acceleration of muscle fiber synthesis in damaged muscle, aiding muscle recovery for athletes.

The side effects of using Actovegin Takeda include headache, nausea, visual impairment, and drowsiness. Yet it was banned for a time under the International Olympic Committee as a blood doping agent, this ban was based on presumptuous conclusions and subsequently lifted after no indisputable evidence could be provided and today you can even buy Actovegin online.

The Legality of Actovegin Uses

In December 2000, the International Olympic Committee banned Actovegin uses as an ergogenic substance after noting its prolific use at the Sydney Olympic Games and that year’s Tour de France.

The ban was lifted, however, two months later, after no indisputable evidence was provided demonstrating Actovegin had performance enhancing potential. The current stance from World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is that Actovegin is legal under 50 mL every 6 h. However, 50 mL is 25-fold higher than the amount injected for a muscle tear, and that is without concentrating the drug; making these guidelines somewhat ill-informed.

Actovegin WADA legal

Further, neither intravenous nor intramuscular injections of Actovegin are prohibited in or out of competition according to the latest search in Global Drug Reference Online, which is approved by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), the United States AntiDoping Agency (USADA) and WADA.

Actovegin use in sports

Lance Armstrong caught with Actovegin in 2000

Actovegin arrived on the sports scene back in 2000 when Lance Armstrong and his team were accused of using it at Tour de France. Armstrong had won two Tour de France titles at the moment and was previously tested positive for cortisol, so the American was under the radar by the French media. Some journalists were so determined to catch Armstrong in wrongdoing that they did the unthinkable back then. Nowadays it is not banned and allowed in moderate doses by WADA and one can buy actovegin online quite easily. Actovegin tablets are non prescription medication in Eastern Europe and is sold over the counter in pharmacies.

armstrong actovegin

Armstrong and his team used a postal office to pick up a package whose final address was a trash can somewhere far away. The French journalists followed the postal service van and retrieved what they had thrown away. Actovegin was the stuff that was in the trash bags that Postal staffers drove hours out of their way to deposit in roadside garbage cans. The journalists published the story, and soon after, Armstrong and his team called a press conference at a fancy hotel in Paris attended by 80 journalists. Armstrong, who was with his agent and lawyer, was well prepared, and he focused on a recent drug test.

“I am very happy to report today that we have received confirmation that the results of the testing of our urine samples have proven to be negative. As I and others have said all along, I did not use performance-enhancing drugs to win my two Tours de France, and that the truth has now been borne out by science. We have learned that our urine samples did not contain EPO or any other banned substance, as we knew they would not.”

The truth is that Actovegin was not banned at that time, and only a few knew about its performance-enhancing use until it showed up on the scene years later.

Other cyclists caught with Actovegin

Actovegin became a popular drug among cyclists. In 2008, Gerolsteiner’s cyclist Stefan Schumacher was in big trouble after testing positive for substances including Actovegin. He won two races at the Tour de France that year and participated in the Summer Olympics in Beijing. The drug test at Tour de France and both samples from the Olympics came up positive, and the German was banned for two years.

Even a bigger scandal occurred two years later, when two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title and banned for two years after sport’s highest court found the Spanish cyclist guilty of doping. The Court of Arbitration for Sport suspended the three-time Tour champion after rejecting his claim that his positive test for clenbuterol was caused by eating contaminated meat on a 2010 Tour rest day. The Spanish cyclist was also found to have traces of Actovegin in his urine, but he denied any wrongdoing and claimed that he had used the drug for medical purposes.

After these scandals, the officials paid more attention to Actovegin uses and it was acknowledged that it was used by Astana and Rabobank teams. Levi Leipheimer rode for both US Postal and Rabobank during that period and confessed his doping usage and the organized doping cultures in both teams. Following his confession, Winnie Sorgdrager extensively examined the doping culture in Dutch cycling. Sorgdrager concluded a doping network within the team and proved the understanding of team management. Former team leaders like, Thomas Dekker, Michael Boogerd, Michael Rasmussen confessed their doping usage and Denis Menchov was also suspended. Reportedly there was a doping network surrounding the period from at least 2004 until 2008 and one of the main substances that was used among them was Actovegin.

Actovegin usage in other sports

Actovegin in sports is not limited only to cycling, other sports disciplines are impacted also. Because Actovegin has performance enhancing properties it is used in high intensity sports like cycling and running. But because of its recovery enhancing properties, actovegin is used in sports like golf and bodybuilding. Actovegin in bodybuilding is not well documented but since bodybuilders are notorious for using performance enhancing drugs of various types, we can safely assume that Actovegin also is widely used there. Many MLB (Major League Baseball) players were involved in a huge doping scandal at the beginning of 2010s including one of the biggest stars of US sport, Alex Rodriguez. Documents from the South Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis link Alex Rodriguez, Yasmani Grandal and Cesar Carrillo to human growth hormone and Actovegin. Rodriguez and other athletes, including Tiger Woods, were connected to Dr. Anthony Galea, who allegedly injected an NFL player with the Actovegin drug in 2010. Galea later pleaded guilty to smuggling drugs into the United States from Canada.

Galea was connected to many high ranking sports professionals and he showed that Actovegin uses are not limited to only hospitals but also with many treating injuries in many sports disciplines. Galea, who was not licensed to practice medicine in the United States, admitted traveling to 13 locations, including New York City, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Boston, to administer four different kinds of treatments. One type of treatment involved injecting athletes with a mixture containing HGH, while a second type of treatment involved injections of Actovegin.

Another doctor who became famous for Actovegin injection for athletes was the former Bayern Munich doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt. Frank Ribery was one of the stars on the team and among the best footballers at the time. He was injured back in 2014 with the FIFA World Cup being only months away. The French international wanted to recover quicker in order to be available to represent his country on the biggest football stage. Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt suggested using cortisone, but after Ribery refused that, he was treated by Actovegin. Müller-Wohlfahrt was criticized for the large-scale utilization of injections as well as Actogevin which he publicly confirmed in medical studies. During an argument between Pep Guardiola, who was Bayern’s head coach at the time, and Müller-Wohlfahrt, the doctor could justify his actions by the fact that players of FC Bayern only rarely suffer muscle injuries. The fact that several doctors have been punished for this medication shows that Actovegin benefits are many and have to be researched more.

Galea and Müller-Wohlfahrt got away with money fines only but another doctor got in a much bigger trouble for supplying Actovegin. Mark Schmidt, the doctor at the heart of the so-called ‘Aderlass’ doping ring, got sentence in prison. He did not only do  actovegin injection for athletic use but also other doping or semi doping. In a Munich court, the 42-year-old was found guilty on 24 counts of using doping methods and a further two counts of prohibited use of drugs including Actovegin. He was also fined and banned from practicing medicine for a further three years. Four of his helpers were also sanctioned – two with suspended prison sentences and two, including Schmidt’s father, with fines.

Actovegin usage among Russian athletes

Actovegin was also widely used among Russian athletes and there are many cases of athletes getting fined for that. In 2014, Russian cross-country skier, Alexander Legkov and bobsledder Alexey Voyevodin, were among several Russian athletes who were found to have used Actovegin during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. In 2018, they both were stripped of their gold and silver medals from the 2014 Olympics due to doping violations.

The following year, two Russian racewalkers, Elena Lashmanova and Olga Kaniskina, were banned from the sport for three years after testing positive for the banned substance GW1516. It was also reported that they had used Actovegin during their training.

The same year, the Russian Athletics Federation was suspended from all international competitions after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report accused the country of widespread doping practices, including the use of Actovegin.

About the Author:

Alex Roberts

A sports medicine enthusiast and the brilliant mind behind the popular blog, "Athletic Insights." Armed with a solid education in sports science and medicine from a prestigious US college, Alex expertly combines his knowledge with his passion for writing. His concise and engaging articles cover a wide range of topics, from injury prevention and rehabilitation to cutting-edge training techniques and performance optimization. With a keen eye for detail and a talent for simplifying complex concepts, Alex's blog is a go-to resource for athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and sports professionals seeking evidence-based advice to enhance their athletic journey.

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