The scientific activities of the Doping Authority consist of the following:
- a continuous survey of the scientific literature based on the identification of doping-related relevance;
- conducting and initiating research to serve national and international anti-doping policies; and
- the diffusion of scientific doping expertise, both inside and outside the organisation.
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 2013, approximately 250 relevant articles were added to this archive, which means that the total number of articles available is now more than 3100. All articles have now been saved in digital form. The number of relevant publications has 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. Data collection began in 2012; the project will continue until late 2014. In 2013, articles were published about the whereabouts system, about gene doping (see below) and about the prevalence of doping use in fitness centres. A range of other articles are in preparation.
Endocrinologist Pim de Ronde has set up a polyclinic in the Kennemer Gasthuis in Haarlem targeting people with health problems caused by anabolic steroids. The Doping Authority has an advisory role. In part on the basis of a recommendation from the Doping Authority, this ‘steroids clinic’ has been recognised as an official Expertise Centre by the Samenwerkende Topklinische opleidingsZiekenhuizen, an association of leading teaching hospitals.
A review of the subject of gene doping in the journal British Paper of Sports Medicine reported on this sub-project in 2013. From now on, this ‘doping of the future’ will no longer be addressed on a project basis but in a continuous way. The subject is covered in a range of presentations and several Dutch research institutes have indicated their interest in collaborating on possible detection technologies. Hidde Haisma, a professor of pharmaceutical gene modulation in Groningen, has been a member of the WADA Expert Group on Gene Doping for some years now.
International ‘Science’ working group
There is a working party for exchanging experiences with seven other scientific members of staff working for the national anti-doping organisations of Switzerland, Norway, Great Britain, Germany, the United States and Australia. Our colleague from New Zealand joined the group in 2013. Once every two months, there is a conference call to discuss ongoing studies and specific scientific doping issues. The chair revolves at each meeting.
In response to an invitation from our sister organisation, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), there was a visit to their annual scientific conference in October 2013. This year, the congress looked at the ongoing introduction of biological passports in the fight against doping. This was the twelfth scientific conference organised by the USADA and the eleventh occasion upon which the Doping Authority was invited.
In 2013, 182 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 market for athletes and their support staff. The system was established in 2003 and, as evidenced by several positive doping controls that are still blamed in retrospect on ‘contaminated’ dietary supplements, a testing system of this kind continues to be necessary. In total, on 31 December 2013, there were 434 product-batch combinations on the NZVT website (antidoping.nl/nzvt), representing 181 products, 30 producers and 17 substantive categories.
The Doping Authority also acts as an adviser to a comparable initiative from the British company HFL (see www.informed-sport.com). Furthermore, with support from the European union, new attempts have been initiated with the aim of establishing international agreements so that all elite athletes can access an overview of supplements with the smallest possible doping risks. This led to the organisation of a symposium in Brussels in June 2013 at which the Doping Authority presented the principles underlying a sound testing programme.
We supervised and made assessments of several students who looked in depth at doping topics as part of their studies. The emphasis was on health-related and forensic training.
We acted as referees on several occasions for doping-related articles submitted to peer-reviewed scientific journals: twice for the International Journal of Sports Medicine, once for the Journal of Sports Sciences and once for the Italian journal Annali dell'Istituto Superiore tue Sanità (which is published in English).
We participated in discussions about fake medical products at two meetings arranged by the Medicines and Medical Technology Directorate of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. In a separate session, we also provided input for the discussion about the possibility of establishing a reporting centre for health problems caused by the use of counterfeit medicines. Doping products are always prominent in this category and a reporting centre of this kind would be one way of implementing the recommendations of the Health Council's report on doping from 2010.
In response to a question from outside the organisation, there have been contacts with the Health Care Insurance Board (CVZ), the publisher of the Farmacotherapeutisch Kompas, a reference publication for medicines. That publication stated that 'penis extension' was a general side-effect of testosterone, even though this side-effect is limited to pre-pubescent boys and does not occur in adult males. The CVZ has now corrected this entry.