Cyclist Marta Bastianelli Uses Benfluorex Unaware of Similarities to Banned Substance

Italian cyclist Marta Bastianelli tested positive for a banned stimulant. She tested positive for the diet drug fenfluramine in a doping control conducted by the International Cycling Union (UCI) at the “Under-23 World Championships” in Verbania, Italy on July 5, 2008.

Bastianelli claims she never knowingly ingested a banned substance. She admitted to her obsession with weight control stating “I wanted to lose weight, like any girl.” She consulted with her doctor to find weight loss products that were not on the WADA banned substance list. Her doctor prescribed the drug Benfluorex. Benfluorex is an anti-diabetic drug that improves insulin sensitivity and glycemic control; as such it is often prescribed for weight loss. Benfluorex is not on the WADA banned substance list but it is structurally similar to Fenfluramine (which is listed) (“Bastianelli tests positive for diet product,” July 28).

“I’m disgusted with my trusted chemist for preparing a mix of herbs for me aimed at weight loss.

“Like always I wanted to read the list of products used and amongst them was benfluorex, which doesn’t figure among the list of banned substances.

“However, laboratory analysis demonstrated that this product contains the ingredient responsible for my positive test.

“But how could I know that?”

Today, she provided a sample of the Benfluorex product to prosecutors for analysis to support her contention that she unknowingly consumed a banned substance.

On Tuesday she said she had given the product to the prosecutor so that it could be analyzed. She expressed regret at not being able to take part in the Olympics and said she hoped to take part in the next world championships to defend her title.

Italian officials are unsympathetic. She will no longer represent Italy in the Beijing Olympics.

Italian Cycling Federation President Renato Di Rocco spoke critically of Bastianelli’s positve fenfluramine test stating that she “committed an incredible act of naivity.” 

“She was positive for flenfluramine, that is in dieting products. She’s obsessed about her weight. She only eats salad.”

Italian Olympic Committe (CONI) president Gianni Petrucci was even more “unyielding.”

“Marta Bastianelli has betrayed Coni, the (Italian Cycling) federation and the world of cycling.”

It is truly unfortunate that the complexities of WADA/IOC testing result in such mistakes by athletes.

Bastianelli and/or her physician would have to be very familiar with the pharmacology of Benfluorex and Fenfluramine to appreciate the structural similarities and the risk for an adverse analytical finding. This just emphasizes the requirement that athletes must perform thorough research into any substances that they utilize.

Benfluorex (RN: 23602-78-0)

  • 2-((alpha-Methyl-m-(trifluoromethyl)phenethyl)amino)ethanol benzoate (ester)
  • Ethanol, 2-(alpha-methyl-m-trifluoromethylphenethylamino)-,benzoate
  • N-(2-Benzoyloxyethyl)norfenfluramine

Fenfluramine (RN: 458-24-2)

  • Benzeneethanamine, N-ethyl-alpha-methyl-3-(trifluoromethyl)-(9CI)
  • Phenethylamine, N-ethyl-alpha-methyl-m-(trifluoromethyl)-

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