The head of the London Olympics anti-doping programme and director of the Drug Control Centre at King's College London, Professor David Cowan, this week told the British Science Festival in Bradford, England, that improved testing methods were making it harder for dopers to operate – with a supplementary pay-off for the supplements industry that has at times become a scapegoat for athletes who have failed doping controls.
New testing methods will make blood transfusions more easily detectable, for instance.
"A few years ago, scientists discovered there are processes going on in red cells,” Professor Cowan said.
“We've been looking at the different RNA that's present and been able to identify those that are clearly changed in stored blood."
Ways of detecting whether the bodily presence of anabolic steroids like nandrolone is natural or down to supplementation were also being developed.
The UK Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) technical director, Peter Berry Ottaway, said such issues were typical before any Olympiad, but noted a positive trend after the 2004 Atlanta Olympics where there were many positive doping controls and much finger-pointing at the food supplements industry by athletes seeking to absolve themselves.
There were no such incidents at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“The industry always wonders about sports doping at times like this – will it affect us?” Berry Ottaway told NutraIngredients this morning.
“It is a constant battle and deliberate contamination by rogue supplement makers targeting those seeking to enhance their performance will never go away, but the trend is good and the World Anti-Doping Agency is spending a lot of money making it harder for athletes to cheat.”
He added a cleaner supplements industry was complementing the work of testers, developments acknowledged by UK elite athletic authorities, which in 2008, changed their policy to advise athletes that quality sports supplements could be useful. Previously it had warned against using them at all.
“CRN and also our international colleagues within IADSA have been involved in anti -doping in sport for over a quarter of a century and we have been working closely with the authorities over a number of years to try and identify and remove the potential causes within the supplement industry,” Berry Ottaway said.
“Whilst the vast majority of supplement manufacturers and suppliers have a completely clean range of products we are aware rogue manufacturers still exist. We always advocate caution when buying ‘the magic product’. The continued recommendation from the CRN is that the athletes should consume multivitamin/ multimineral supplements purchased from reputable suppliers.”