99. During this inquiry, witnesses have identified
several HETs which might pose a threat to the London 2012 Olympics,
and we found persuasive Dr Hamilton of UK Athletics who told us
of his personal belief that "every component of the WADA
code will be challenged over the next ten to fifteen years".
Drugs are an example of such HETs since, as we heard from Professor
McGrath of the University of Glasgow, "pharmacology will
always develop; drugs are continuously developing, they have been
for the last fifty years and that will carry on".
Pharmaceuticals of interest to the sporting world may include
stimulants which act on the central nervous or cardiovascular
systems, perhaps in raising aggression, confidence or alertness.
A well known example of a 'designer drug' is Tetrahydrogestronone
(THG), an anabolic steroid modified so as to make it undetectable
under normal drug testing. THG was discovered following the 2003
US-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) investigation
which resulted in the British 100 metre sprinter Dwain Chambers,
amongst others, receiving a two-year ban.
100. Hormones may also pose a threat to fair play
during the London 2012 Olympics. Examples include Human
Growth Hormone which can aid recovery from injury, promote strength
and burn fat, or the glycoprotein hormone erythropoietin (EPO)
which regulates red blood cell production and hence the oxygen-carrying
capacity of the circulation,
as described below. Dr Hamilton from UK Athletics told us that,
for endurance sport at least, EPO will "continue to be a
problem through 2012".
101. Blood doping is thought by some, for example
Dr Richard Budgett of the BOA, to be a serious concern for anti-doping
by 2012. The term
'blood doping' refers to the practice of boosting the number of
red blood cells (RBCs) in the circulation in order to enhance
performance in endurance events by increasing the RBC content
and therefore the oxygen-carrying capacity of the athlete's circulatory
system, for example to the muscles. Blood doping is commonly undertaken
through the intravenous infusion of blood. The infused blood may
have been previously removed (from the same athlete) and stored
or it may come from another source.
As the detection and understanding of EPO (which has a similar
effect, see above) has become more advanced, athletes have reverted
back to blood doping, presenting real problems for detection programmes
since as explained by UK Sport, "an athlete growing and using
their own blood [is] impossible to detect if the levels are below
those reported for an adverse analytical finding".
102. Gene doping, or the modulation of an athlete's
genetic material or its expression to improve performance, is
also thought of as a potential threat to the London 2012 Olympics.
WADA is taking the issue very seriously: it has convened conferences
to discuss gene doping with top experts and is supporting research
into its detection.
Genes of interest to the sporting world could include those involved
in increasing production of naturally occurring substances such
as Insulin-like Growth Factor-1
(IGF-1) which stimulates
muscle growth and speeds healing and repair. This form of doping
would also be potentially useful to athletes looking to use alternative
effects on genes such as causing them turn on or off as required
to enhance performance. Whilst we have also heard that genetic
manipulation of athletes is unlikely to be attempted before 2012,
(for example, Dr Wackerhage of the University of Aberdeen told
us that such use is unlikely because "it is technically difficult
and the type of desired and side effects are unclear"),
there have already been reports of use of gene therapy in this
fashion. For example, Repoxygen is the tradename for a type of
gene therapy which induces controlled release of EPO in response
to low oxygen concentration in mice. Developed to treat anaemia,
Repoxygen is still in preclinical development and has not been
extensively tested in humans. However, despite being prohibited
both in and out of competition under the WADA Code 2006 Prohibited
List, interest in Repoxygen is currently suspected.
103. We were interested to establish what is being
done to identify new performance enhancing drugs. However, John
Scott told us that UK Sport were not "directly doing any
work" and their research "priority" has been on
used to get a better understanding of the 'mind-set' of athletes
and hence when they might use prohibited substances, rather than
what may be available. Mr Matthew Reader from DCMS put the onus
on WADA, explaining that it has a "fairly considerable"
research budget and that it commissions research around the world.
He commented that WADA is "uniquely placed to co-ordinate"
since this is one of many issues which has application across
the world. We
find the attitude of DCMS and UK Sport somewhat complacent, and
are concerned that UK Sport does not conduct research into current
or future, potentially prohibited, HETs. We also consider that
there is a need for increased research into the detection of current
and potential illegal substances, including gene doping, and that
such research must take place well in advance of the London
2012 Olympics to
enable us to be ahead of, or at least on a par with, the cheats.
We recommend that DCMS and UK Sport develop a funding stream to
support research into potentially prohibited substances and methods
for their detection. We recommend that funds be made available
for this work well in advance of the London 2012 Olympics.
Alternative methods for catching
104. As discussed in Chapter 4, WADA supports scientific
research into the detection of doping in its various forms and
it is clear that some mechanisms for cheating (for example, with
testosterone) are detectable through the WADA-accredited laboratory
However, as we have seen above, some HETs remain very difficult
or impossible to detect. Since not all methods for doping are
currently detectable, the development of the doping, or athlete's,
'passport' has been suggested. The idea behind this suggestion
is that athletes would be requested to give blood and urine samples
at set points at the start of and during their career in sport.
These samples would be tested and analysed, for example for natural
variation in hormone levels (such as natural levels of EPO) and
markers of normal blood physiology (such as haemoglobin, the part
of red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen). The passport
would then be used to measure variation in these levels and thus
enable easier tracking of substance abuse. During the course of
this inquiry, we have heard strong support for the development
of a doping passport. Professor McGrath referred to what he considers
the "big case" for an athlete's passport. He also felt
that monitoring athletes in this way might enable detection later
on when a particular method of doping is not yet detectable.
Dr Budgett of the BOA argued that not only is it a "good
idea" but that resources put into the development of a doping
passport would be effective and that the UK should show a lead
because "it would be one extra way of making sure our athletes
truly are clean".
On the other hand, while John Scott from UK Sport also felt that
it would be useful to have a doping passport,
he believed that the scheme "requires international partnership"
since there is little point in it being applied to just one group
105. We believe that a 'passport' used to record
an athlete's physiological profile over set time points during
their career would be of use in the fight against doping. Not
only might such a scheme offer increased potential for detection
of doping, but it could act as a deterrent to those athletes contemplating
doing so. However, for such a passport to be effective, it would
be necessary for anti-doping authorities to have a clear, continually
developing understanding of normal physiology (for example, of
the blood) and the effects of HETs upon it. There may therefore
be a need for increased research into normal physiological characteristics
to enable detection of when doping has occurred. We
recommend that the UK pilot the development of a doping passport
and that government funds be made available for development of
this scheme. To support this, we recommend that funding be given
for research into normal physiology and changes in physiological
characteristics after doping with illegal substances.
168 Ev 58 Back
Q 185 Back
Q 125 Back
"This Is Very Clever Chemistry", Washington Post,
4 December 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A33774-2004Dec3?language=printer Back
Ev 58 Back
Ev 59 Back
Q 165 Back
Q 230 Back
Ev 59 Back
As above Back
WADA publication, 'Play True', Issue 1, 2005, pages 3-6. Back
Ev 72 Back
"Apocalypse now: fears of gene doping are realised",
The Times, 2 February 2006, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,4-2020875,00.html Back
Q 31 Back
As above Back
Testosterone, epitestosterone and the doping tests, Cycling News,
31 July 2006, http://www.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=features/2006/testosterone_testing Back
Q 193 Back
Q 304 Back
Q 73-79 Back
Q 83 Back