Could Green Tea Dupe Olympic Drug Testers?
Some officials are worried the common drink could help athletes hulk up under the radar.
Olympic officials are figuring out whether they should tweak their steroid tests after learning that green tea may muddle testosterone levels. Whether the effect takes place in real people hasn't yet been proved, but lab trials have been conclusive enough to cause concern in the run-up to London 2012: adding green tea extract to a sample could mask up to 30% of true testosterone levels, distorting athletes' urine test results. "It's interesting that something as common as tea could have a significant influence on the steroid profile," says Dr. Olivier Rabin, Scientific Director of the World Anti-Doping Agency. But he's not about to generate a storm in a teacup; steroid tests aren't just about running the numbers, but involve teams of experts who take factors like jet lag, diet and strenuous exercise into account. And there's always the option of blood tests instead of urine screening. Other food and drinks, like caffeine and alcohol, are also known to mess with tests. But Dr. Dr Andrew Kicman, head of research and development at the Drug Control Centre at King's College London, thinks green tea's standard dosage is too small to cause alarm. "You would probably need to drink the tea continuously to get any sustained but minor effect," he says. "And I personally wouldn't want to drink nine cups of tea on the day of a race."