UK Sport under fire over secret energy drink for London 2012
UK Sport is facing claims it failed in its duty of care to athletes competing at London 2012 after asking them to sign waivers over a secretive performance-boosting drink that had yet to be approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
A total of 91 competitors from cycling and seven other sports signed agreements to stay quiet about their early use of a synthetic version of a naturally occurring body acid called ketones. Its use is more widespread in sport now to improve endurance, but at the time UK Sport persevered with trials deBy spite Wada making no guarantees that it would not be banned.
The supplement, originally developed by Oxford University scientists with funding from American military chiefs to help make special forces more resilient behind enemy lines with fewer rations, was fed to British medal hopefuls early in 2012. According to some associated with the trial, athletes found the substance “unpalatable” and gave up on its use during competition.
UK Sport has denied any wrongdoing, but Rob Koehler, director general of the Global Athlete movement, said an independent investigation was needed to establish if athletes had been put at risk. “Sporting organisations have a duty of care towards athletes,” he said. “If these allegations are true, UK Sport has severely breached that duty of care.”
Secretive use of the DeltaG energy drink ahead of the London Olympics was first disclosed yesterday following freedom of information requests by the Mail on Sunday, which revealed UK Sport had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money on the project.
UK Sport produced a “participant information sheet” with the project application. It read: “UK Sport does not guarantee, promise, assure or represent that use of ketone esters is absolutely World Anti-Doping Code compliant and therefore excludes all responsibility for use of the ketone ester.”
The document also said “ketosis is a temporary physiological state and would be difficult to prove or test with any post-event samples”.
According to the Mail on Sunday, UK Sport approached Wada and UK Anti-Doping before proceeding and was told ketones were not currently banned. A version of the product has since been approved by Wada.
It has long been known that ketones were being tested by UK Sport rowers and cyclists although it was never known in what quantity or for what aim.
A UK Sport spokesperson said: “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’. Athletes are not put under pressure from UK Sport to take part in any research project or to provide their consent, and may withdraw at any time.”