With a Dutch doping researcher With Olivier de Hon is a clear message that he wants to convey in a Helsinki restaurant at the very beginning of the interview.
– We have to give people more scientific evidence. Traditional warnings about doping substances that “doping is dangerous, don’t use it” do not work.
Doping has employed de Hon in various roles for more than 20 years. The researcher is sitting with Urheilu in a restaurant on a September Tuesday, because the Finnish sports ethics center Suek has invited him to give a lecture on the effectiveness of anti-doping activities and the prevalence of doping.
De Hon has numerous research publications on the subject. In addition, he has been the scientific director of the Dutch Anti-Doping Commission for twenty years.
De Hon divides doping users into three categories: elite athletes, amateur athletes and gym athletes. Huippu-seruh collects the biggest resources and headlines in doping control. However, if elite sports are viewed as a part of society, their role in the doping whole is marginal.
The majority of doping users are regular exercisers.
– People want fast muscles, beach or disco fitness, whatever. The number of doping users is highest in gyms. However, international anti-doping measures are aimed at elite athletes. The balance is not right at the moment.
– In the Nordic countries, this is understood, but the rest of the world has something to learn from this.
A few thousand in Finland
According to De Hon, there are more than 100,000 people in the Netherlands who use doping substances every year.
According to studies conducted in Finland in this millennium, approximately one percent of the Finnish population between the ages of 15 and 65 have used doping substances at some point. According to the Youth Research Society there are 3000–7000 active users.
To put things in perspective, it must also be remembered that almost a million people in Finland have a gym membership.
However, doping substances flow into Finland in large quantities, which is evident from the data of the Finnish customs. Before the corona pandemic, on average hundreds of thousands of doping ampoules remained in the customs’ wounds every year. Criminal convictions for doping continue to accumulate in Finland at a rate of more than 200 per year.
The most common active ingredients are anabolic steroids and growth hormone. De Hon has studied the effects of the substances in question at the polyclinic in Haarlem, his home country, where his colleague who specializes in endocrinology, i.e. nerve diseases, also works.
– He said at the beginning that these substances might not be as big a problem as I let on. I always answered that maybe, but we can’t know, so it’s worth investigating, says de Hon.
– After ten years, my colleague’s conclusion is that although a large proportion of users do not have major health problems, there are still too many who do, de Hon says.
The number of people doing business at the clinic has grown to such an extent that another similar treatment center has been opened in the Netherlands.
– We are going to establish more clinics because there are so many visitors. And now we’re just talking about endocrinology. A similar message comes from cardiology, says de Hon.
– Users, often young men, look for information on the Internet, and many regret it later.
Hype the Finnish page
At this point, de Hon digs out his phone from his pocket and starts praising Finland.
A Dutchman opens a Finnish website on his cell phone Dopinglinkki.fiwhich offers comprehensive information and health advice on fitness doping, i.e. the use of doping outside of competitive and elite sports.
– Dopinglink is an exemplary tool for sharing researched information about doping. This kind of work needs to be expanded to other countries as well, says de Hon.
De Hon stresses that international anti-doping circles should tell ordinary people the basic facts about doping.
– In theory, one course of anabolic steroids hardly has a fatal effect, but practice tells us that the use is not limited to one course. It would be important for anyone considering doping to understand what they are getting into.
How will we act in the future?
According to De Hon, international anti-doping activities are at a crossroads right now. The World Anti-Doping Agency Wada’s list of banned substances is long – according to De Hon, too long when taking into account the resources of anti-doping agents.
– Anti-doping policy can only work if it is implemented globally. I and many of my colleagues want to shorten the list of prohibited substances.
De Hon mentions hard painkillers and narcotics as examples.
– For example, cannabis does not have an advantage in sports, but it still absorbs our resources, even though it is about substance policy instead of sports policy.
Doping control has developed significantly during de Hon’s career. After the wild epo years of the 1990s, the first epo test was completed at the beginning of the millennium. After this, the athletes’ biological passport was developed.
Over the past ten years, the ability of laboratories involved in anti-doping work to screen banned substances from doping samples has increased 100-1000 times.
Because of this, microdosing, i.e. the use of doping in small amounts, has become more common instead of large single doses.
– A 1-2 percent improvement in performance can be achieved with Epo microdosing. It is still a lot in top sports, but not nearly as much as in the 1990s, when epo could be used freely without fear of testing.
Although testing has developed in huge steps, the doping side has not rested on its laurels. According to De Hon, in addition to new substances, the threat is the possibility of gene doping. The Dutchman underlines that the anti-doping world must prioritize its activities in order to be effective.
– When talking about elite sports, anti-doping work should focus on epo, similar substances and anabolic steroids. They are big enough problems that we should spend our time on, says de Hon.