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 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.
Traditionally, the scientific activities have also been considered to include the 'nutritional supplements and doping' project.
Monitoring 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. About 200 relevant articles were added to those archives in 2014. All articles are available digitally.
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 has focused 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. In 2014, the main article for this thesis looking at the actual measurement of the prevalence of doping among elite athletes was accepted for publication. The framework of the thesis was completed on 1 December. It consists of an introduction, a description of the method, a description of the various areas of doping policy including seven articles that have already been published, an eighth draft article that is still to be submitted to a scientific journal, and a discussion and recommendations section. The awarding of the doctorate itself is planned for 2015.
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. For the time being, this is a clinical facility. However, joint efforts are being made to find financing that will allow for a scientific study of these health problems.
Elite sport survey
The Doping Authority conducts a periodical survey of the opinions of Dutch elite athletes about the doping policy. This tradition began in 1993 and the last survey was in 2010. A new survey has been drawn up using a subsidy from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The questionnaire was developed in 2014 and the actual survey of athletes with an official elite athlete status from NOC*NSF and a select group of ‘other elite athletes’ has begun. This time, the traditional policy evaluation has been extended to include a number of questions that should allow for an estimate to be made of the prevalence of doping use in Dutch elite sports. The survey is being conducted with TNS NIPO and Utrecht University (the Social Sciences Department) and a supervisory committee has been established with representatives from NOC*NSF, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, and the NOC*NSF Athletes Committee. The survey will continue in 2015.
Two supplement studies
Once again with additional funding from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, two studies were initiated in 2014 looking at the doping risks of supplements. The first focuses on the NZVT (see below), which has now been in place for more than 11 years. The NZVT depends on the cooperation of supplement producers who are aware that supplements in the broad sense require an additional check for prohibited substances. As part of a 'quality boost', 1) an audit will be conducted of a wide selection of NZVT products to determine whether the marketing agreements are being observed as they should; 2) additional purchases will be made of NZVT product/batch combinations in shops and through the Internet and they will be analysed in the laboratory (RIKILT: the Dutch Government Institute for Quality Control of Agricultural Products); and 3) a one-off addition will be made to the existing procedure at the RIKILT laboratory.
A second study will look at the more high-risk sides of the supplements market. Since the NZVT was established, no new studies have been conducted in the Netherlands looking at the doping risks of supplements but various athletes have still tested 'positive' after using 'contaminated' supplements. The aim of this study is to establish a clear picture of the doping risks in the current supplements market in the Netherlands. Here also, analyses will be conducted, but they will target a selection of supplements that, on the basis of 'warning signs', can be considered to represent a risk. The analyses will be conducted to either confirm or dispel these suspicions. The findings of this study will be used in our information activities for both elite athletes and fitness athletes.
The results of the two studies will be published in 2015.
A working party has been established 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, New Zealand and Australia. There are periodical telephone meetings about ongoing studies and specific scientific doping issues. There were four meetings in 2014. The chair revolves at each meeting.
We acted as referees on several occasions for doping-related articles submitted to peer-reviewed scientific journals: twice for the Journal of Sports Sciences, twice for the Journal of Sports Medicine & Doping Studies, and once for Drug Testing and Analysis.
Together with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, NOC*NSF, the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP) and the Trimbos Institute, a process has been instigated with the aim of including doping-related questions once again in the nationally coordinated regular monitoring of the use of all sorts of ‘lifestyle substances’, such as alcohol and drugs. It has been agreed that the topic of doping will be included again, starting in 2017, in a dedicated module in the new lifestyle monitor. In 2014, a few questions were already included on a trial basis in the ‘Accidents and Exercise in the Netherlands’ monitor.
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 number of separate meetings, we also provided input for the discussion about the possibility of establishing a reporting centre for health problems caused by the use of fake 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.
We also 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.
At the Congress of the European College of Sports Sciences in Amsterdam, the VU-University of Amsterdam student (and elite skater) Diane Valkenburg presented her study of the whereabouts experiences of elite athletes. This study, which was also published as part of a scientific article, emerged from an internship with lecturer Ivo van Hilvoorde.
In 2014, 183 product-batch combinations in total 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. At the same time, five batches were rejected this year because prohibited substances were found, a very strong signal that the NZVT is still needed. The system was established in 2003 and, as evidenced by the numbers of positive doping controls that can still be blamed on ‘contaminated’ dietary supplements, a testing system of this kind continues to be necessary. In total, on 31 December 2014, there were 521 product-batch combinations on the NZVT website (antidoping.nl/nzvt), representing 217 products, 32 producers and 17 substantive categories. The website itself was extended in 2014 to include more information about the products that are always included in the system (in other words, in all batches).
The Doping Authority also acts as an adviser to a comparable initiative from the British company HFL (see www.informed-sport.com). Both systems have acknowledged one another as 'athlete-friendly' testing systems that give the maximum possible assurance that nutritional supplements are doping-free.