The World Anti-Doping Agency took the unusual step of issuing an alert and even contacting suspected cheating athletes about GW 501516, sold under the supplement name “Endurobol”. What exactly is GW 501516? From Wikipedia:
GW–50156 regulates fat burning through a number of widespread mechanisms; it increases glucose uptake in skeletal muscle tissue and increases muscle gene expression, especially genes involved in preferential lipid utilization This shift changes the body’s metabolism to favor burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates or muscle protein, potentially allowing clinical application for obese patients to lose fat effectively without experiencing muscle catabolism or the effects and satiety issues associated with low blood sugar. GW–501516 also increases muscle mass, which improved glucose tolerance and reduced fat mass accumulation even in mice fed a very high fat diet, suggesting that GW–501516 may have a protective effect against obesity.
In other (very simplistic) words, GW 501516 causes the body to burn fat more, rather than burning carbohydrates or proteins. This keeps blood sugar more regular and prevents the body from breaking down muscle for energy. This makes exercise more effective, increasing the ability of athletes to cut body fat, build muscle mass, and increase endurance.
Sounds like a wonder drug then. One problem: GW 501516 never even made it to clinical trial in any country because of adverse side effects. Severe adverse side effects:
GW501516 produced test article-related neoplastic findings in multiple tissues at all doses.
To put if differently, the drug caused cancer in more or less any place a rat could possibly get cancer.
Because the drug is so dangerous, WADA wants to make sure athletes who might be tempted to use GW 501516 know about the risks. Because right now, the drug appears to be the perfect performance-enhancing drug: one that helps every aspect of athletic performance and for which governing bodies are not routinely testing.
One of those governing bodies is the NCAA. Christopher Radford of the NCAA responded to an inquiry saying the NCAA had received the same alert. The association will work with its consultants and the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport to determine if and where GW 501516 fits on the NCAA’s banned substance list. The committee may make that decision in June, with the substance potentially appearing on the 2013–14 banned substance list.
The one thing that governing bodies and anti-doping agencies have going for them is that GW 501516 is not as readily available as other PEDs. Because GW 501516 never made it to even the clinical stage, let alone approval and sale, it is only available on the black market, not just by finding a doctor shady enough to write a prescription. That should drive up prices and limit supply, hopefully slowing the trickle down from elite and professional athletics to colleges and high schools.