UK Sport does not fund research projects aimed at giving our national teams a performance advantage at the expense of athlete welfare.
As the nation’s high-performance sports agency, UK Sport invests in expert institutes who deliver research and innovation projects to support the success of our national sports teams. These projects range from designing world-class technical equipment for our athletes, to supporting athlete health and performance. Before the English Institute of Sport (EIS) was established in 2002 and up until 2013, UK Sport worked with research and innovation partners directly before transferring this strategic responsibility to the EIS.
These research and innovation projects are conducted in line with the highest ethical standards, within the rules of international sport and are assessed by an expert independent research advisory groups. Consultation takes place with UK Anti-Doping and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) wherever necessary to ensure projects comply with international anti-doping regulations.
The Ketone Ester project received independent ethical approval from the research advisory groups in January 2012. Additionally, UK Anti-Doping confirmed in writing, after seeking clarification from the World Anti-Doping Agency, that WADA had ‘no reason to consider such substances as banned under the 2011 List of Prohibited Substances and Methods’. From the outset, this study stated it ‘complies, and at all times will comply, with the Declaration of Helsinki developed by the World Medical Association as a statement of ethical principles to provide guidance to physicians and other participants in medical research to promote and safeguard the health of the people involved. It declares that the well-being of the human subject should take precedence over the interests of science and society. Ketone had been tested since 2008, 3 years before the UK Sport funded research project.
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 ester which became commercially available in 2018.
Any research project funded by UK Sport investment includes a participant consent form to ensure it operates with full transparency with regards to any risks to participants, and also for the purpose of full disclosure. Participating athletes agree they have been provided with full details of the study and have had the opportunity to raise and discuss questions with a named researcher. Athletes are not put under pressure from UK Sport to take part in any research project or to provide their consent, and may withdraw at any time.
Decisions which lie at the heart of the high performance system need to be made with absolute transparency, are respectful and the impact of these decisions understood and carefully managed. 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.
UK Sport resolutely refutes any accusation that Olympians were used as ‘guinea pigs’, and finds this allegation both misleading and offensive.