Having monitored the sales activity of target dark web platforms during a 10-month period WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations department found purchasing drugs there presented significant risk.
These risks were heightened for elite or professional athletes, with many products inaccurately labelled containing concentrations less or more than advertised.
The Project Team did identify a group of dark web suppliers who specifically referenced elite athletes as clientele and a supposed ability to evade anti-doping detection.
Alarmingly, one substance obtained from an underground lab claimed to be new and capable of evading detection.
WADA is currently testing the substance trying to establish if it does qualify as a banned performance-enchancing substance.
“I am relieved it does not have the attraction that we were assuming at the beginning,” Gunter Younger, WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations director told Reuters.
“There were these rumours that elite athletes used the dark web to purchase PEDs, so we thought let’s go into the dark web, pretend to be an athlete and find out whether it is easy to get the substances.
“We came to the conclusion that it would be a tremendous risk for elite athletes who need to know exactly what they are putting in their body.”
Investigators found that the vast majority of those wading into the murky waters of the dark web in search of PEDs were mostly body builders and amateur athletes with the bulk of products coming from illicit pharmaceutical laboratories and homebrewers primarily in Asia.
Using cryptocurrencies, the currency of choice on the dark web, the Project Team was able to purchase well-known PEDs such as growth hormones and androgenic-anabolic steroids with vendors employing a wide range of methods to mask the shipments, including hiding them in beauty and hair care products.
All relevant intelligence, said WADA, has been passed onto the appropriate national anti-doping and law enforcement organizations for further follow up.
“We had interaction with several vendors and as soon as we tried to find a person to advise us we were handed over from person to person until we reached someone, who is now the subject of an investigation, who can advise us on what to do, how to do,” explained Younger.
“What we were surprised was that there is an even clearer link between the clear web and dark web.”
Many of the banned substances trafficked on the dark web were also being sold on the clear web. In many cases the drugs being offered are not illegal in the countries they are sold.
“The clear web is interesting because you can buy from legal companies, pharmaceutical companies the products you need and you know exactly what is in there,” said Younger. “In many case these products are not illegal in the countries they are sold.
“The dark web you have more risk.”