TV Show That Tests Drugs on Athletes Sparks Official Fury ; Olympic Games Channel 4 Criticised over Programme Showing Effects of Doping, While IOC Applauds Athens' Security Measures
Bloomfield, Steve, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
A controversial television experiment in which amateur sportsmen are injected with anabolic steroids to test their effectiveness has been branded "irresponsible" by UK Sport, the official body that deals with drug testing.
The production company behind Cheating at Athens - Is it Worth It?, to be screened on Channel 4 on Thursday, a day ahead of the opening ceremony at the Athens Olympics, deny the allegation.
They say the programme forms a groundbreaking scientific experiment into the effects of taking performance-enhancing drugs.
The doctor who carried out the experiments told The Independent on Sunday yesterday there were risks involved but they were worth it because of the value of the results the programme has thrown up. Cheating at Athens will show the damaging side-effects of taking steroids and other such drugs, which include depression, hair loss, increased aggression and shrinking of the testes.
Amateur athletes - many regular gym-goers - from the UK, Australia, United States, Canada and New Zealand spent six weeks at a secret training camp near Byron Bay in New South Wales, Australia, where they were monitored by doctors from an Australian university.
Of the 24 guinea pigs - all men - 18 received regular injections. Nine were given steroids, while the other half were injected with a harmless placebo. Crucially, neither the athletes, coaches, nor scientists running the experiment knew which athletes had been injected with anabolic steroids. The other six men were given legal performance-enhancing drugs, such as creatine, caffeine and colostrum. The final results have in part surprised the scientists. In some cases, those men injected with a placebo did better over six weeks than some of those injected with steroids, indicating that some of the effects of steroids might be in the mind or else that steroids do not work for all athletes.
UK Sport last night poured scorn on the programme-makers' claims that it was a worthwhile scientific experiment. A spokesman said: "We certainly have issues about the principles surrounding the programme. It troubles us, particularly from an ethical and health point of view.
"It's just irresponsible. What sort of message does that send out to young, up-and-coming athletes? …