Athletics: British products fail IOC dope tests

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The Independent Online

British athletes are the third most likely nationality to incur positive doping tests through taking contaminated supplements, according to information released yesterday by the International Olympic Committee.

The final results of the IOC's study into food supplements worldwide showed that 18.9 per cent of British products tested contained sufficient rogue substances to trigger a positive drugs test, with 18.8 per cent of United States products also showing evidence of contamination.

The evidence of the two-year study conducted at the IOC's Cologne laboratory may shine some additional light on the question of why there has been a spate of positive tests for the banned steroid nandrolone in recent years from British athletes such as Doug Walker, Linford Christie, Mark Richardson and Gary Cadogan. Richardson's standard ban of two years was reduced by the International Association of Athletics Federations after he was able to provide evidence that he had unwittingly taken supplements that had been contaminated.

Top of the rogue list, however, is the Netherlands, where footballers such as Edgar Davids, Jaap Stam and Frank de Boer have tested positive for nandrolone. A total of 25.8 per cent of Dutch products tested offered evidence of contamination, with 22.7 per cent of Austrian products also offending.

Overall, the study showed that 14.8 per cent of 634 nutritional supplements tested contained substances which could lead to positive results in doping tests. The IOC has now repeated its warning to athletes not to use such supplements and warned that industry and governments should take tougher measures to ensure "substances not found on the label are not found in the product".

The substances analysed were gathered over a 13-month period ending in November 2001 after purchases in stores and on the internet. The IOC added that the findings also had an impact beyond élite sporting performers. "The fact that the public is unknowingly ingesting the precursors to hormones should be a matter of public health concern," a statement said.

Last June the Cologne-based doping expert Professor Wilhelm Schaenzer announced that early research had indicated a link between some food supplements and potentially risky substances, although he added that the findings did not prove the innocence of all who had tested positive for nandrolone.

An independent Dutch study testing 55 food supplements has indicated that 40 per cent contained substances not listed in the ingredients which could lead to positive tests.