Under-license manufacturer Cambridge Commodities said each ingredient and raw material, along with the particular blackcurrant batch flagged by UKAD, was tested after Rhys Williams and Gareth Warburton blew up positive for steroids in the lead up to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games last summer.
Products the athletes sent to UKAD then came up contaminated with the same substances, even while the raw materials and contracted blend in the same batch have tested clean, according to Cambridge Commodities.
“There was no contamination in any of the tested products or ingredients,” said Cambridge Commodities financial controller Neil Hammill.
It is believed all the test data was passed to UKAD but the company was not contacted by the doping agency at any further point during its deliberations which concluded Williams and Warburton were guilty of inadvertent doping and hence they received back-dated, reduced bans and are free to race again presently. The UKAD verdict is here.
Wales-based Mountain Fuel owner and founder Darren Foote told us many other athletes using the same products including boxers, cyclists and mountaineers had been tested with no adverse findings, as had the products themselves.
“I honestly don’t know how this has happened,” Foote said, noting the event had damaged his brand not to mention the sports nutrition sector. “This is devastating for the business and for me personally. All my products are clean and so are these athletes.”
Williams and Warburton have stopped using supplements altogether and warned other athletes off them, stating food supplements cannot be trusted.
Foote has defended the innocence of the athletes to whom he was also giving nutrition advice, and said he maintains a good relation with them even though they no longer utilise Mountain Fuel products. He said sales had spiked in the blackcurrant version of the product since the incident.
His company is conducting an investigation into the situation.
Informed supplement use?
Cambridge’s third party testing was done by LGC, the UK testing service which owns the quality assurance scheme, Informed-Sport. Many elite sporting bodies advise their athletes to only consume supplements that have passed through the stringent Informed-Sport batch testing procedure, or one like it.
There are currently about 250 specific products that bear the Informed-Sport logo. No Informed-Sport registered supplement has ever been implicated in a doping scandal.
Cambridge Commodities is a registered Informed-Sport manufacturing site, but the specific Mountain Fuel products in question here were not registered with Informed-Sport. Foote said he was under the impression the Cambridge Commodities site registration was sufficient.
Warburton's supplement war chest
According to the UKAD decision, Warburton was a keen sports supplement user. In the lead up to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games last year he took:
- Myprotein: Beta Alanine is a non-essential amino acid and a naturally occurring beta-amino acid. This was batch tested and was part of the Informed-Sport programme. He had taken it daily for many years.
- Mountain Fuel: Morning Fuel. Morning Fuel is an energy breakfast in the form of a porridge containing added vitamins and minerals. It was taken regularly starting about 15th May 2014 and taken 2-3 times per week.
- Mountain Fuel: Xtreme Energy (tropical and blackcurrant flavours). Xtreme Energy is a powder mixed with water to make an energy drink and was taken before training. He started taking it on about 15th May 2014 and took it 4-5 times per week.
- Mountain Fuel: Ultimate Recovery. A protein based chocolate powder which is added to milk in order to aid recovery. He started using it regularly from about 15th May 2014, 2-3 times a week.
- Mountain Fuel: Night Fuel. A protein based hot chocolate type drink, taken 3-4 times a week from 15th May 2014.
- Powdered Beetroot: commenced on 19th May 2014 and taken daily.
- Dandelion Leaf Tea: taken daily from 19th May 2014.
- Wheatgrass Powder: taken daily for 8 days from 19th May 2014 and then intermittently before he stopped.
- Glucose C Powder: a supplement was taken for energy following races on two occasions.
In its verdict, the UKAD independent panel noted of the athletes’ decision to take supplements not registered with Informed-Sport.
“Like [Warburton], [Williams] failed to make any reasonable enquiries of [Foote] and the Mountain Fuel supplements. He failed to make any reasonable enquiries as to the batch testing or even verification that such tests had taken place.”
Warburton did not report he was taking Mountain Fuel supplements as he was obligated to on two occasions at doping controls. “…he said he forgot, as he felt rushed,” the report states. Williams reported his Mountain Fuel use.
Warburton said he had “personally investigated Mountain Fuel and [Foote] (including his Facebook page and website).”
Mountain Fuel was established in 2008 by sports nutrition diploma-holding Foote to “provide natural energy and protein” and other nutrients.
The independent UKAD report quoted Foote saying “the only logical explanation is that something must have gone wrong during the blending, manufacturing or packaging process which led to the contamination of the process with substances which should not have been present.”
It added: “Using a contaminated supplement is a misfortune that often afflicts Athletes at all levels of sport; such bad luck is not the same thing as acting without significant fault.”
In a statement Williams said: “I carried out all necessary checks within my power before consuming the product, unfortunately in this instance I have been severely let down by a manufacturing company.”
Informed-Sport business sector manager, Terence O’Rorke, said the 250-strong accredited Informed-Sport list contained a comprehensive list of sports supplements that covered the gamut of legal sports nutrition products.
Welsh Athletics stated it “does not advise its athletes whether or not to take supplements but Welsh athletes funded through Sport Wales will receive advice from them (Sport Wales) about the use of sports nutrition.”
“Welsh Athletics does not have a partnership with a sports nutrition supplier.“
The body added: “All Welsh Athletics Commonwealth Games (CWG) and Welsh Athletics Academy (WAA) supported athletes and their coaches have been reminded of their responsibilities regarding the WADA code, prohibited lists and strict liability and anti-doping education will continue to form a key part of our national development programme.”
Cambridge Commodities is a member of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Association (ESSNA). Mountain Fuel is not.
Warburton and Williams received bans of six and four months respectively. Under tougher World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules introduced on January 1 this year, they could have been banned for up to four years for serious offences.
Correction: The Mountain Fuel product blends and ingredients were tested after, but not before, the doping violations occurred last summer as originally stated. If the products had been registered with Informed-Sport they would have been tested at the final point of production.