A mix of testosterone and olive oil known as “the oil” was in use in elite cycling from 1998 to 2007, the US Anti-Doping Association (USADA) claims.
Testosterone is an anabolic agent that can increase muscle mass and strength. It is also used in small doses to promote muscle recovery from strenuous exercise and increase endurance.
But what was the olive oil for?
USADA documents explain that the form of the steroid in “the oil” was Andriol, which consists of testosterone undecanoate and is designed to be mixed with oil and taken orally.
“This way the drug can be absorbed into the lymphatic system without being transported to the liver, making the drug more effective and reducing the prospect of liver damage” they say.
When asked to speculate on why olive oil was used instead of other edible oils, a person close to the investigation told Olive Oil Times a possible reason is it “helped athletes avoid rousing suspicions from authorities should their apartments, cars, or hotel rooms be searched.”
“Because it can easily be concealed in bottles labeled as typical olive oil and with the same color and taste, even if Andriol is dissolved within” the source said.
“The oil” is mentioned in various parts of a huge dossier recently released by USADA and containing its evidence for its sanction of lifetime ineligibility and disqualification against cyclist Lance Armstrong, who maintains his innocence.
Among the references is that of cyclist Tyler Hamilton, who reported that the olive oil-testosterone mixture “was to be squirted under the tongue to get a recovery boost after races.”
Olive extracts and exercise recovery
There is no reference to any of olive oil’s many proven health benefits being cited as a reason for its use, but the hydroxytyrosol in olive oil is nevertheless said to promote muscle health.
According to a patent application from Dutch inventors, it can help protect muscles during exercise, promote recovery from injuries, and relieve muscle soreness.
“The olive extracts can decrease the accumulation of lactic acid present post-exercise, and can also work by maintaining glutathione levels” they say.