Dutch anti-doping boss says he’s 'uncomfortable' with use of ketones in Jumbo-Visma

The head of the national anti-doping agency says the supplement is in a ‘grey area’

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

A Dutch anti-doping boss has said the use of ketones within Jumbo-Visma makes him “uncomfortable.”

The chair of the national anti-doping agency in the Netherlands, Herman Ram, said he feels the supplement sits in a “grey area” and advises riders not to use it.

According to Dutch newspaper De Limburger (opens in new tab), Ram said that Sunweb does not use the supplement on advice from the Dopingautoriteit.

Ram said: ‘It’s a legal supplement, but at the same time too little is know about the possible health consequences.

“It’s a grey area. It’s not on the doping list, but if we receive questions from athletes we advise them not to use Ketones.

“Sunweb does not use them for that reason. I find it uncomfortable that Jumbo-Visma does.”

The initial ketone drink was created to fuel soldiers in the US army.

Scientists – Dr. Kieran Clarke of Oxford and Dr. Richard Veech of the National Institute of Health/Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – were challenged to produce a foodstuff that would provide soldiers with a fuel tailored to success on the battleground.

The formula has since been adopted in sport, with WorldTour cyclists apparently buying into the drinks: which cost as much as $99 (£76) for three 25g bottles and $1149 (£884) for just under a litre.

Adopting a ketogenic diet means training the body to burn fat for fuel, as opposed to carbohydrates.

It’s not a quick fix. The body needs to adapt to the process and the approach divides opinions amongst sports nutritionists quite dramatically.

A study published in Cell Metabolism in 2016 showed that British Cyclists went two to three per cent further in a 30 minute time trial, with consistent improvements present without the need for athletes to adapt to a ketogenic diet to yield results.

However, the results have been questioned. A 2017 study carried out by an Australian research group showed that performance was impaired in trained athletes completing a time trial.

In July, Jumbo-Visma team boss Richard Plugge confirmed his squad used the drink during the Tour de France.

The supplement is not on WADA’s (World Anti-Doping Agency) list of banned substances and is allowed to be used, with riders ingesting it by mixing it into their drinks.

>>> Denise Betsema’s six-month ban not long enough says former US cyclocross champion 

In November last year, Jumbo-Visma’s Laurens De Plus said he though ketones ‘taste like gin and tonic with a lot of imagination.’

The Jumbo-Visma rider has revealed he is taking the performance boosting supplement, which one study found increases performance by two to three per cent.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.