The drug trap: Former gold medallist Darren Campbell warns that failed drugs tests may be caused by companies catering for body-builders

 

British athletes heading to Moscow for the World Championships next weekend are risking a similar fate to the absentee star sprinters Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay if they are taking dietary supplements, some of which may have been contaminated by products designed for body-builders.

There is a growing concern that substances used in body-building, where there is no official testing for performance-enhancing drugs, have infiltrated supplements taken by other athletes unaware of their illegality. Britain's former Olympic gold and silver medallist sprinter Darren Campbell is among those who accept that the claims made by Jamaica's Powell and American Gay that their failed tests were due to unknowingly taking contaminated substances given by their advisers may have some merit.

He believes that products which are intended for body-builders are increasingly available in over-the-counter or online supplements in a guise which makes them appear legitimate. "The biggest problem is some companies who make legal products for sports people also make illegal products for the body- building market. So what Powell and Gay are saying is quite feasible. I think there is a good chance they are telling the truth."

The 39-year-old Campbell, now a Sky TV presenter and sprint coach to newly promoted Premier League club Cardiff City, has inside knowledge of the supplement industry. For seven years he has run a sports nutrient business with John Williams, nutritionist to the Welsh rugby team and British Lions. They also supply dietary products to 18 Premier League football clubs and the world champion boxer Nathan Cleverly.

"We thoroughly test all the original ingredients, some of which may come from China and Europe, before they are blended and manufactured," Campbell says. "Then the finished product is again checked by a company in Cambridge who do the official tests for the sports organisations. The big companies like Maximuscle will get their products tested by them.

"The public need to understand the difference between performance-enhancing drugs and nutrient products. We only source our products from companies that do not make illegal substances but I suspect there are some that don't."

Campbell's belief that the use of contaminated supplements is a major problem is endorsed by the pole-vault legend Sergey Bubka, now a candidate for the presidency of the International Olympic Committee. The Ukrainian told The Independent on Sunday that his advice to athletes is: stop taking tablets. "The supplement industry has become a huge multi-million dollar business and the athletes are not protected. We advise and educate them but in the end it is their responsibility what goes into their bodies.

"There is enough information available to avoid this sort of thing, but the answer is simple: don't use them. Just take regular vitamins. A lot of these supplements are manufactured in the United States where there is no longer a requirement to provide clear information about what is contained in the tablet.

"When a small factory produces substances, they can include some medicines that contain steroids. They may try to wash them out but they do not clean very well and instead they contaminate. Who pays the price? The athlete."

Ian Musgrave, senior lecturer in pharmacology at the University of Adelaide, says that Powell's defence of "never knowingly" taking drugs is a "very real possibility" and that contamination is widespread. One report found 70 per cent of weight-loss supplements contained ingredients not listed on the label.

Powell's test revealed a synthetic stimulant, oxilofrine, used as a fat-burner which, as a natural product, is found in extracts of bitter orange. This was also the substance used by a number of positively tested British boxers, including the former WBA world middleweight champion Brian Magee, who served a six-month suspension. He escaped the customary two-year ban because he showed the substance was an unlabelled ingredient in a sports supplement designed for body-builders.

Michele Verroken, the former UK Sport anti-doping chief who now runs the advisory organisation Sporting Integrity, says the supplement controversy is not a new phenomenon. "If you think back to 1998-99 when we had all those nandrolone positives, it's exactly the same scenario," she says. "The supplement market remains unregulated to the same level you have with licensed medicine. The question is whether industry-led standards are as comprehensive as they need to be to prevent contamination which may be accidental or even deliberate."

Campbell, a vehement anti-drugs campaigner, says a time he spent away from athletics trying to make a career as a footballer was spurred by attempts by "certain individuals" to draw him into a drugs programme. Now he warns the goalposts have shifted, and that athletes are in danger of becoming unwitting victims of rogue manufacturers whose products may seriously harm their health. "These people don't care about the welfare of athletes. For them, it's just about making money."

Darren Campbell will present Game Changers, a new Saturday morning children's show live on Sky Sports from 17 August

The dope sheet

30 April 2013 Russia's European 800m champion Yelena Arzhakova banned for two years after her biological passport is deemed abnormal; the Olympic silver medal discus thrower Darya Pishchalnikova is banned for 10 years for a second positive test.

13 June Jamaica's 400m runner Dominique Blake banned for six years after testing positive for banned substances on two separate occasions.

15 June Fellow Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown, the three-times Olympic gold medallist, is found to have tested positive for a banned diuretic in May.

14 July Sprinters Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson of Jamaica test positive for banned substances including oxilofrine and the American 4x100m Olympic silver medallist Tyson Gay for an unidentified substance. Reports also claim three other Jamaicans could be implicated.

15 July Another Jamaican, discus thrower Allison Randall, confirms that she will serve a ban for doping. Police in Italy search the hotel rooms of Powell and Simpson for drugs.

16 July Powell's manager, Paul Doyle, claims the sprinter had become reliant on substances given to him by his trainer.

17 July Powell and Simpson's trainer, Chris Xuereb, argues: "Although I suggested certain vitamins to these athletes, it is ultimately the athlete's responsibility to accept or reject my suggestion."

19 July Jamaican discus thrower Traves Smikle tests positive.

31 July Nine Turkish athletes are banned for two years for using anabolic steroids.

Grace Mennem

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower