UK Sport denies win-at-any-cost Olympic mentality after testing revelations

UK Sport has denied seeking to win Olympic medals at any cost following revelations it secretly spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on testing an experimental substance on 91 elite athletes before London 2012.

The substance, a synthetic version of a naturally occurring body acid called ketones developed by researchers at Oxford University with a $10m grant from the US military, led to 28 of the athletes having symptoms from gastroenteritis to vomiting, according to the Mail on Sunday.

The story, which has raised fresh questions about the excessive medicalisation of British sport in the wake of Bradley Wiggins’ therapeutic use exemptions and Mo Farah taking L-Carnitine before the 2014 London Marathon, also noted that UK Sport prepared waivers freeing themselves of any blame if anything went wrong. The athletes also had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before participating in the trial.

In a statement, UK Sport insisted it did not fund research projects “aimed at giving our national teams a performance advantage at the expense of athlete welfare”. It added: “By its very nature, any performance innovation project is at the cutting edge of science and emerging technology, as any advantage for Great Britain is only possible before it is widely available – as was the case for the ketone tester which became commercially available in 2018.

“UK Sport is fully committed to developing a high performance culture that is truly inspirational and one that will set us apart from our global competitors – but UK Sport will never seek to win medals at any cost.”

Meanwhile UK Sport and Sport England have announced an immediate review of the sports governance code, following research showing that 64% of funded national governing bodies have no black, Asian and ethnic minority board members. In a statement, both organisations confirmed there would be a “substantive” focus on the boards of sporting organisations “aimed at ensuring greater representation of those from BAME backgrounds, those with a disability or long-term health condition, and female representation”.


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