The scientific activities of the Doping Authority consist of the following:
- a continuous survey of the scientific literature based on relevance to doping;
- conducting and initiating research that serves the purposes of the national and international anti-doping policy; and
- the diffusion of scientific doping expertise, both inside and outside the organisation.
Scientific knowledge is used more and more often in the early stages in practice in the light of findings from doping controls. Traditionally, the scientific activities are considered to include the 'nutritional supplements and doping' project.
Survey of scientific literature
To ensure it is informed about the latest developments, the Doping Authority keeps a close eye on new publications of doping-related scientific literature and saves copies of the relevant articles in its archives. In 2011, approximately 200 relevant articles were added to this archive, which means that the total number of articles available is now more than 2500. The number of relevant publications increased perceptibly in recent years; doping is a topic that has also been a focus of increasing interest in scientific circles.
The information from the available literature is actively distributed and serves as the basis for internal advice for, among others, the Control and Prevention department. This information is also used to answer specific scientific questions from doctors, lawyers, journalists, students and other interested parties.
Efficacy of anti-doping policy
December 2010 saw the start of a doctorate project entitled ‘The efficacy of anti-doping policy’. The research will focus on a multidisciplinary approach to this wide-ranging field, looking in particular at the areas of prevention, detection and sanctions, and how these have been brought together in the current anti-doping approach at the international level and in the Netherlands. The doctorate supervisor is Professor Maarten van Bottenburg, the professor of sports development at Utrecht University. The research plan was written and refined in 2011 and there was a visit to the WADA head office to discuss the plans and, where possible, to link up with existing WADA initiatives.
In 2010, the Medical Centre of the Free University of Amsterdam established a dedicated polyclinic for people with health problems resulting from the use of doping/muscle enhancers. The person behind this polyclinic, Dr. Pim de Ronde, changed jobs and so the polyclinic moved during the course of 2011 to the Kennemer Gasthuis in Haarlem. Initially, this polyclinic is intended to map out the actual perceived damage to health; at a later stage, it may be possible to use this setting for scientific studies. Athletes will not receive guidance in the use of anabolic steroids. The polyclinic is open one evening a week and it has now received approximately 150 visitors. The Doping Authority is playing an advisory role.
The first steps were taken in 2011 on an update of the report on gene doping from 2004. Of course, developments in this field are under continuous observation, in part through contacts with the Dutch member of the WADA Expert Group on Gene Doping, the professor of pharmaceutical gene modulation, Hidde Haisma. Together with the professor of pharmaceutical history, Toine Pieters, and one of his students, a publication is being drafted about the current situation in this field.
A working party has been established for exchanges of science-related experience with six other scientific members of staff working for the national anti-doping organisations of Switzerland, Norway, Great Britain, Canada, the United States and Australia. Once every two months, there is a telephone meeting about ongoing studies and specific scientific doping issues. The chair revolves at each meeting.
The Doping Authority participated in discussions about fake medical products at a meeting arranged by the Medicines and Medical Technology directorate of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. In addition, under the auspices of the NOC*NSF and the Mulier Institute, we were involved in a number of discussions and written exchanges during the drafting of the Sector Plan for Sports Research and Sports Education for 2011-2016 entitled The Foundations for the Olympic Ambitions. Furthermore, in response to an invitation from Social and Cultural Planning Office, we attended an expert meeting about the Knowledge Infrastructure in the field of (more specifically, the sub-session 'Talented Netherlands', in other words elite sports).
Two courses were followed and completed at the Dutch Forensic Institute: crime prevention (February/March) and Bayesian statistics (May/June).
We supervised and made assessments of several students who looked in depth at doping topics as part of their studies. Particular mention should be made of Michel Riemersma of the 'Applied ethics' masters course at Utrecht University and his thesis 'Is the inclusion of cannabis on the anti-doping list morally wrong?' and Suzanne Bosman of the 'forensic science' masters course at the University of Amsterdam and her thesis 'State-of-the-art analysis of anabolic steroids in human blood, urine, hair and saliva'.
Finally, we acted as a referee twice for the International Journal of Sports Medicine.
In 2011, 140 product-batch combinations were added to the website. This is the highest number ever, a sign that the Dutch Dietary Supplements system (NZVT) is still catering to a significant need of athletes and their support staff. The NZVT was established in 2003 and the fact that a system for testing dietary supplements is still required was demonstrated in 2011 by, among other things, the rejection of one batch because of the unexpected presence of steroids in what was otherwise a standard product. In total, in late 2011, there were 283 product-batch combinations on the NZVT website (antidoping.nl/nzvt), representing 169 products, 38 producers and 17 substantive categories.
The Doping Authority also acts as an adviser to a comparable initiative from the British company HFL (see www.informated-sport.com).