The UCI will soon have an official stance on ketones, a supplement drink that aids recovery for endurance athletes, from the peloton.
The Movement For Credible Cycling is submitting a request to the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate ketones, with the nine professional teams associated with the union created to defend clean cycling opposed to their use and MPCC chairman Roger Legeay saying arguments in favour of ketones are thin on the ground. According to De Limburger, the UCI will soon respond to these developments with an official position on the so-called “miracle drink”.
There has been tension over the use of ketones in the peloton since the 2019 Tour de France, during which seven teams were reported to be using them, including Jumbo-Visma, with team boss Richard Plugge saying the drink improved performance by 15 per cent, adding its absence from the prohibited list meant there wasn’t an issue.
“The problem with ketones is that we know too little,” Legeay argues. “We don’t know who uses it, how many riders are taking it, whether it improves performance, and what the long-term effects are. We do know that some riders get stomach problems. Then why would you use them? Are they necessary for health? I do not think so.”
A nutrition scientist who works with Jumbo-Visma, Asker Jeukendrup, argues that if ketones were to be banned, they should also ban carbohydrates and all nutritional supplements.
“Advice not to use them is nonsensical and based on nothing, except emotion,” he said.
“Then you should also ban carbohydrates and glycerol, because they fall under the same category as ketones. And then you can also argue for a ban on all nutritional supplements, including vitamins. The argument about upset stomachs makes no sense either. Too much of anything can cause complaints. If you take too many gels, you also get stomach problems.”
Jeukendrup adds that the label of “miracle drink” is also mistaken and that only in theory have ketones shown to improve performance, with real-life results yet to materialise.
“It is still argued that ketones are some kind of magical agent, but nothing indicates that. In theory, we see that it improves performance, which is why we work with it,” he said. “But in practice, I have not yet seen any evidence for this. It is difficult to say how long that will take. But if there is a ban, we will look for other ways to improve athletes. Because that’s what sport is all about.”