The Roar
The Roar


Xenon, Argon and the future of cycling

With the WADA hack, drugs in sport just got murkier. (Image: Organised Crime And Drugs In Sport Report)
28th August, 2014

Doping. It’s one of those topics that makes you say, “oh god, not again, how boring, let’s move on, why not focus on the positives?”

Fortunately though, doping thrills the hell out of me! What is a ‘micro-dose’? Is asthma subjective? What on earth are Xenon and Argon?

Today, the World Anti Doping Agency opened an internationally speculative can of worms by announcing that the noble gases Xenon and Argon were added to the banned list. As far as I know, the bike brand Argon haven’t yet been banned as well, but I assume an eminent change of name, or if nothing else a witty marketing campaign.

The ‘performance enhancing gases’ have professional riders in high hopes that a third and equally nasty gas – flatulence – which is more of a propellant than anything, will be banned too.

Xenon and Argon have been proven to be what science-people call ‘Hypoxia-Inducible Factors,’ which essentially trick the body into thinking it’s at an altitude camp by reducing the blood oxygen levels, thereby promoting the activation of all things adaptationally beneficial.

In regards to teaching your body to transport oxygen more efficiently, low-oxygen adaptation is a good thing.

Having altitude in a can (presumably it comes in a can?) provides many benefits over it’s being at the top of a mountain. Specifically, I can have it right now, in the mostly-migraine-free space of my lounge room.

I can tell my body exactly when I want it to be promoting the excitingly effective Erythropoietin and the consequentially derived red blood cells – the ones that carry oxygen. Regarding the practicality of having such a procedure, finely calculated doses and timed consumption are two factors that render with immanently.

So the third most abundant gas on planet earth, and Xenon, have been banned, but what next in the evolutionary scope of athletic-doping? For me, this is the love/hate relationship of sport.


A potential for ethical crucifixion and egotistical corruption, contrasted with an awesome environment for spectating and a thick culture for scientific advancement. Drugs will changed and adapted and ahead of the tests, until the time comes when drugs lie down with malignancy in the face of the mothership of genetic manipulation rolls into town. Or has it already rolled in?

Even then though, fear-not, because if the competitive sport we know today has not yet died a slow death, from a weakened social desire for sport, we will still be free to watch the thrill fest that is the cycle race, regardless of the fuel.

The descents of Vicenzo Nibali, the attacks Joaquim Rodriguez marvelled us with in last year’s world titles, Cadel Evans’ muddied dirt tracks in the Giro – we will be seeing them all in one form or another, and what goes on behind the curtain will remain behind the curtain. I’m just not sure how I feel about that.