The Biathlon Integrity Unit Comes Online:
Earlier this month, the website biathlonintegrity.com came online. The site is the digital interface of the Biathlon Integrity Unit, an independent arm of the International Biathlon Union. Part of the Biathlon Integrity Unit’s mandate, according to the website, is to provide a mechanism to “investigate and prosecute violations” as they relate to “integrity related matters in Biathlon, including anti-doping, ethical breaches, betting-related issues and any kind of result manipulation.”
What that means from a practical standpoint is an easy to use portal to locate anti-doping information on WADA doping codes and specific requirements for athletes in the IBU’s Registered Testing Pool which mandates registered athletes abide by specific out-of-competition testing protocols and whereabouts requirements.
The site also provides access to educational materials pertaining to anti-doping, anti-corruption, safeguarding (which entails protecting all biathletes including minors from mental, physical, or sexual abuse), and diversity. Additionally, an easy to find section allows individuals to file a confidential whistleblower report informing the Biathlon Integrity Unit about ethical and/or anti-doping code violations.
“Knock-on Effect” comments from Dick Pound:
Dick Pound, the former head of WADA and current member of the International Committee member made comments on July 15th in an interview with Reuters linking the potential cancellation of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games. The Tokyo Olympics were slated for this summer but were postponed until July 23 to August 8, 2021, due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Taking the political side out of it for the moment say there is a COVID problem in July and August next year in Tokyo, it is hard to imagine there is not going to be a knock-on effect in the same area five months later,” Pound told Reuters.
The summer and winter events pose a quick-turnaround timetable for the IOC. Practically speaking, it is hard to fathom a scenario where the pandemic impacts a summer 2021 global sporting event, like the Summer Olympics, yet does not affect a 2022 Olympics.
In the Reuters piece, Pound posited several scenarios that might impact the 2022 Games. One focused on the pandemic and the notion that a vaccine still would not be readily available by winter 2022. (Beijing is scheduled to host from February 4 – 20.) Further, Pound speculated that some countries who have not curbed the spread of Covid-19 might be banned from travel to China.
Pound went further to draw the current icy relations between China and the U.S. into the mix. Both nations have ramped up their antagonism towards one another. The U. S. withdrew recently from the Who Health Organization (WHO), which the current U.S. administration claims is a tool for Chinese propaganda.
“At least one part of the U.S. is planning an election campaign which is all anti-China,” Pound said to Reuters. “If you are a conspiracy theorist, you might say well, the WHO is strongly influenced by China and they could probably without smirking too much go to a WHO meeting, from which the U.S. will no longer be associated, and say this isn’t positive health.
“At least one part of the U.S. is planning an election campaign which is all anti-China
“If you are a conspiracy theorist, you might say well, the WHO is strongly influenced by China and they could probably without smirking too much go to a WHO meeting, from which the U.S. will no longer be associated, and say this isn’t positive health.
“That is an extreme supposition. There are all kinds of crazy things that could happen.”
Athletes as Guinea Pigs
It was widely reported on July 11th that UK Sport (the United Kingdom’s government agency supporting Olympic and Paralympic sport) was involved with experimenting on athletes to boost performance. The Daily Mail acquired documents revealing that 91 athletes were given the experimental sports drink – called DeltaG – as they trained for the 2012 London Olympics.
The DeltaG drink, according to documents, contained synthetic ketones. When endurance athletes run low on fuel, the body can convert fat to ketones for energy. Some theorize that supplemental synthetic ketones can serve as a complement to the body’s natural fat-to-ketone conversion process, known as ketosis, to further prolong endurance.
The news reports claim that of the 91 athletes testing the substance, 36 experienced adverse side effects.
UK Sport had participating athletes sign waivers absolving UK Sport of any wrongdoing as well as sign an NDA to prevent athletes from leaking information or discussing the covert project.
The Daily Mail also unearthed a document in which UK Sport could not guarantee the substances in DeltaG were WADA compliant.
“UK Sport does not guarantee, promise, assure or represent that use of ketone esters is absolutely World Anti-Doping Code compliant and therefore excludes all responsibility for use of the ketone ester,” was one quoted section of a UK Sport “participant information sheet”.
The Daily Mail wrote the information document also included this verbiage: “WADA might exercise … their rights to regulate … [and] collect blood samples or retrospectively test old samples. This may occur if there were pressure of the media if the concept was to leak. However … ketosis is a temporary physiological state and would be difficult to prove or test with any post-event samples.”
The news report did state that UK Sport notified WADA and UK Anti-Doping before administering the study. At the time, ketones were not on the banned substance list. Ketones remain legal. However, their efficacy and potential for adverse health effects are of concern to some in the sports world.
One twist in the story involved the U.S. military. Internal documents obtained by The Daily Mail claim UK Sport scientists read a science journal piece about the U.S. military experimenting on animals with DeltaG. The U.S. military then linked UK Sport with Oxford University to pilot their own study.