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Cooperative communications using relays in wireless networks have similar effects of multiple-input and multiple-output without the need of multiple antennas at each node. To implement cooperation into a system, efficient protocols are desired. In IEEE 802.11 families such as a/b/g, mobile stations can automatically adjust transmission rates according to channel conditions. However throughput performance degradation is observed by low-rate stations in multi-rate circumstances resulting in so-called performance anomaly. In this paper, we propose active relay-based cooperative medium access control (AR-CMAC) protocol, in which active relays desiring to transmit their own data for cooperation participate in relaying, and it is designed to increase throughput as a solution to performance anomaly. We have analyzed the performance of the simplified AR-CMAC using an embedded Markov chain model to demonstrate the gain of AR-CMAC and to verify it with our simulations. Simulations in an infrastructure network with an IEEE 802.11b/g access point show noticeable improvement than the legacy schemes.