A top Russian official said there would be “nothing wrong” with athletes using xenon gas to help their performance, days after Russia took home its 13th gold medal at the Winter Olympics, AFP reports.
“We use what is not illegal, is not destructive and does not have side effects,” the head of Russia’s Federal Biomedical Agency, Vladimir Uiba, said on Wednesday.
Uiba is the first official to make any statements about a Feb. 8 report in The Economist, which found a document that the Russian government provided to athletes in 2010 detailing how to use xenon, AFP reports.
Xenon is an noble gas that helps increase erythropoietin, the hormone that spurs red blood cell growth. Directly injecting erythropoietin, like cyclist Lance Armstrong did, is illegal, according to World Anti-Doping Agency rules. But using gases like xenon or oxygen to increase it are not.
Oxygen tents produce a similar effect and are still allowed, although the World Anti-Doping Agency has considered banning them.