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UK Sport deny risking athletes' welfare at London Games

UK Sport has strongly denied the allegations put towards them by the Mail on Sunday who claim that British Olympians had been provided with a “novel nutritional intervention” ahead of the successful London Olympic Games in 2012.

An investigation by UK national newspaper, the Mail on Sunday, found that British athletes had been given an experimental substance via an energy drink known as DeltaG, without understanding whether the drink was within the anti-doping rules, cleared by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and if the drink could cause any side effects for the athletes taking them.

A statement from UK Sport reads, “UK Sport does not fund research projects aimed at giving our national teams a performance advantage at the expense of athlete welfare.

"As the nation's high-performance sports agency, UK Sport invests in expert institutes who deliver research and innovation projects to support the success of our national sports teams.

"These projects range from designing world-class technical equipment for our athletes, to supporting athlete health and performance.

"These research and innovation projects are conducted in line with the highest ethical standards, within the rules of international sport and are assessed by an expert independent Research Advisory Group.

“Consultation takes place with UK Anti-Doping and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) wherever necessary to ensure projects comply with international anti-doping regulations.”

Documents that have been obtained by the Mail on Sunday found that 91 British athletes from eight Olympic sports were given the drink before the Olympic Games in 2012.

The substance taken is a synthetic version of the body acid called ketones which are naturally formed in humans. It was developed by Oxford University scientists and manipulated into a drink, linked with the Ketone Ester project, which was funded by UK Sport from 2011 before becoming commercially available in 2018.

UK Sport added that “The Ketone Ester project received independent ethical approval from the Research Advisory Group in January 2012.

"Additionally, UK Anti-Doping confirmed in writing, after seeking clarification from the World Anti-Doping Agency, that WADA had 'no reason to consider such substances as banned under the 2011 List of Prohibited Substances and Methods'.

"By its very nature, any performance innovation project is at the cutting edge of science and emerging technology, as any advantage for Great Britain is only possible before it is widely available - as was the case for the ketone ester which became commercially available in 2018.

"Any research project funded by UK Sport investment includes a participant consent form to ensure it operates with full transparency with regards to any risks to participants, and also for the purpose of full disclosure.

"Decisions which lie at the heart of the high-performance system need to be made with absolute transparency, are respectful and the impact of these decisions understood and carefully managed.

“UK Sport is fully committed to developing a high-performance culture that is truly inspirational and one that will set us apart from our global competitors - but UK Sport will never seek to win medals at any cost.”

Speaking to InsideTheGames, WADA confirmed that ketone supplements do not feature on their list of prohibited supplements, however, they warned against the use of it to athletes in the future.

“The use of any supplements by athletes is a concern because, in many countries, the manufacturing and labelling of supplements may not follow strict rules, which may lead to a supplement containing a substance that is prohibited under anti-doping regulations," said WADA.

"This may happen for a variety of reasons including deliberate addition or contamination.

“A significant number of positive tests have been attributed to the use of supplements and taking a poorly labelled supplement is not an adequate defence in a doping hearing.”

The newspaper uncovered how 40 per cent of the athletes who took the supplement suffered from side effects, which included vomiting and gastrointestinal upsets, and caused 28 individuals to stop taking it because of this. Another 24 stopped as they believed they were not benefiting from the substance.

Any athletes that took part in the experiment signed a participation sheet which excluded any responsibility from UK Sport if the athletes failed a drugs test, while also being made to sign a non-disclosure agreement which meant that the experiment had to remain private.

Furthermore, the investigation revealed how UK Sport had a strategy in place in how they would deal with this experiment being leaked to the media ahead of the Olympics.

The ‘road-map’ stated that “the UK Sport aim is to implement the use of DeltaG with targeted athletes and sports in the period leading into and during London 2012 with events greater than five minutes’ duration and multi-event athletes.

"These sports include cycling, hockey, sailing, athletics, swimming, modern pentathlon and select others.”

London 2012 is Britain's most successful ever Olympic Games, in which the host nation won a total of 65 medals - 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze.

Author: Jake Wilkin