World Anti-Doping Agency director-general David Howman has described the trade in doping products as being more lucrative than the trade in heroin. Speaking at the European Union’s Sport Forum conference in Budapest, Howman said, "There is more money to be made [from doping products] because in many countries it is legal."
Howman declared that it is WADA’s goal to persuade countries to introduce legislation that will prevent the sale of doping products in order to protect athletes and young people. “These substances are bad for our youth, for our elite athletes and for anyone who happens to buy them,” said Howman, who explained that they were unsafe because they are often produced without any regulatory supervision.
“The mark-up can be anywhere from 10 to 100 times. You spend a dollar and you make $100. That’s a pretty good investment. They buy the raw materials and then they put them together in a kitchen laboratory.”
The WADA chief also spoke about the repercussions of the clenbuterol-related doping case involving three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador. He said that WADA is waiting to see whether the UCI decides to appeal against the Spanish federation’s decision to overturn Contador’s ban for doping before deciding on its own course of action. He added that the organisations could decide on a joint appeal.
Howman also offered an interesting perspective on the recent spate of positive tests for clenbuterol, suggesting that the use of steroids to boost the growth of cattle in China may have been to blame.
“There seems to be some evidence that some beef in China may have been stimulated in their growth by the use of steroids. We have written to the Chinese minister to ask for a full explanation of what happens in the industry in China. We’re waiting for a response,” said Howman.
A recent study by the WADA-accredited lab in Cologne showed that 22 of 28 people who had recently returned from China tested positive for low levels of clenbuterol, probably due to food contamination. WADA has subsequently issued a warning to athletes competing in China about the risks of eating tainted meat.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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