23 September 2021

ARD Doping Editorial Team response to WADA

On 19 July, WADA sent us a letter requesting further information regarding the experiment in our documentary ‘Guilty’ from July 17, relating to the possibility of sabotage through the skin. We answered as requested.

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Information supplied included names and doses of the four anabolic steroids and carrier substance used in the experiment, plus a copy of the ethical approval as well as details regarding the banned substances detected. See right for the bullet point requests.

Concentrations of detected metabolites of the four anabolic steroids have not yet been estimated. During already reported detection windows, metabolites of the four steroids have been identified via gas chromatograpy/mass spectrometry in corresponding initial testing procedures. We, and scientific experts we have consulted, believe that this was enough information for WADA to ‘discern the scientific significance of the project’ and to plan follow-up measures.

The research expanded upon a Rome Laboratory Study published in October 2020 about the possibility of skin transfer of one anabolic steroid, Clostebol. This could already have prompted WADA to start further research. Question is: Did they start this research? We don’t know.

Anyway… we think that is highly important for WADA to take action regarding the recent experiment from the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Cologne when the peer reviewed study is published in the coming months. We also assume WADA will consider other follow-up investigations to prove whether additional anabolic steroids and banned substances can also be transmitted through the skin in this way, potentially via a simple handshake or touch.

Forensic scientist (German Police) Hellmut Mahler, who has been the initial informant in the ARD investigation, proceeds on the assumption that around 80 percent of the substances on WADA Prohibited List could be absorbed through the skin in the manner shown in the experiment. WADA is in a really difficult position here. The anti-doping system relies on the principle of strict liability and confirmation of the new research could open a Pandora’s box. But that cannot mean WADA should ignore findings simply because they are inconvenient.

• This media release was published via Twitter on 23 September in response to Twitter comments from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), published on 10 September (here, here, and here). 

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