This week, Alistair Brownlee has warned fellow athletes of the dangers of taking contaminated supplements following the news that two athletes, Gareth Warburton and Rhys Williams, both failed drugs tests. In both cases they that they did not knowingly take a banned substance.
Rhys Williams, the 400m hurdler from Wales, was barred from competing in the Commonwealth Games after he failed a drugs test at the Glasgow Grand Prix in July 2014. A tested positive in two samples and as a result UK Anti-Doping banned him from all competition. He issued a statement, saying: “As a professional athlete, I have always supported and have been an advocate of clean sport”.
Both athletes used a range of sports supplements that were all thoroughly investigated following his positive drugs test.
The official national anti-doping report that followed an independent tribunal found that neither Gareth Warburton or Rhys Williams took adequate advice before purchasing supplements that were contaminated with an anabolic steroid.
Some supplement manufacturers add anabolic steroids to their products with the specific hope that athletes report getting better gains; by adding anabolic steroids they can boost sales because athletes, both professional and amateur alike, share advice freely about which products and supplements are working best for them. Unfortunately, few are in a position to properly test the supplements for banned substances.
The National Anti-Doping Organisation (UK) report found that the Mountain Fuel products claimed to be energy and recovery drinks and were advertised as providing a natural source of protein and energy in a concentrated form.
Both Gareth Warburton and Rhys Williams had carried out their own enquiries into Mountain Fuel before taking the supplements, however, this was not a thorough analysis of the products but simply just reading labels and warnings about the product.
Both athletes and their coaches believed that the supplements were safe to use based on their research.
Gareth Warburton took Mountain Fuel: Morning Fuel, a form of porridge containing minerals and vitamins, for breakfast two to three times a week. He also took several other Mountain Fuel products, including Xtreme Energy, Ultimate Recovery and Night Fuel.
Each was designed to provide a different combination of nutrients to help an athlete’s body throughout the day. As well as these products various other supplements were taken, including Powdered Beetroot, Dandelion Leaf Tea, Wheatgrass Powder and Glucose C Powder.
Following the positive test result, Darren Foote, the owner the Mountain Fuel company, sent products to be tested and it was found that the Xtreme Energy Fuel 3283 blackcurrant product contained similar prohibited substances to those that were found in the positive test results, specifically estra-4,9-dien-3,17-one and methyltestosterone.
Darren Foote founded Mountain Fuel Limited in 2008 and contracted Cambridge Commodities Limited (CCL) to manufacture the products. CCL is registered with Informed Sport, who carry our tests of sports supplements to ensure that they are free from banned substances. The first batches all tested negative for banned substances. Although Cambridge Commodities Limited was listed by Informed Sport as a safe manufacturer, Mountain Fuel was not.
However, somewhere within the production line banned substances appeared within products that had not been tested by Informed Sport. The result was that two athletes were barred from competing in one of the most important athletic competitions of their careers.
It is important that all athletes are aware of the dangers of taking a supplements and to only ever use specific supplements that have been tested by Informed Sport or another laboratory. Professional athletes and their trainers should consider having all their supplements tested independently.
See also: ‘I have ethics!’…Welsh firm launches defence as supplement is investigated amid Commonwealth Games doping scandal – 26 July 2014, Wales Online.