The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) officially added Xenon to its list of banned substances this weekend, brought on by growing concern about the gas’s use as a performance enhancer in sports.
Xenon is a noble gas that can be inhaled, usually in combination with oxygen, to increase athletic advantages like red blood cell production. The Telegraph reports that its been popular especially among Russian athletes for as long as a decade, and was taken by athletes before the last Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Another noble gas, Argon, has also been banned alongside Xenon.
Inhaling these gases helps the body produce more of the hormone erythropoietin, which in turn boosts the athletes red blood cell production and provides athletes with a physical advantage. NBC Sports also reports that inhaling gases like Xenon can bring such advantages as improved lung capacity, higher testosterone levels and can even prevent muscle fatigue.
The banning of Xenon and Argon has been added to the banned list under Section 2.1 according to PlayTrue magazine, a section that already dealt with Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents and that hormone erythropoietin.
The actual banning of the substance will not go into effect for three months, per WADA rules, allowing the agency to fully notify all countries and parties of the amendment before the ban takes effect.