Doping within sport is a very sensitive issue. Whether you believe they should be allowed or are firmly against their use, they will be illegalised for a long time to come. Doping is not just illegal, it can also destroy an athletes reputation in seconds, just ask Lance Armstrong if he’d turn back the clock to when he’d had the decision to dope or not, he’s now bankrupt and ostracised from cycling and sport in general.
Looking more closely at athletics, Asafa Powell, former world record holder for 100m, has recently tested positive for oxilofrine, his argument is that he didn’t know that the tablets he was consuming contained substances on the prohibited list, but as you will read a little later on, this is no excuse.
As you can probably tell, it definitely pays for an athlete to be clued up on what the rules are when it comes to drugs, and how there is a very fine line between innocence and exclusion from sport. This FAQ will help any athlete, be that track or field, to ensure they stay on the right side of the law.
Who regulates doping?
Internationally, it’s the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), within the UK, the UK Anti Doping Agency (UKAD) control testing and punishments.
Who can be tested?
UKAD states that anybody, no matter what level, can be tested for drugs. That means that if you’ve entered a competition which is endorsed by your national governing body, you are susceptible to testing.
What’s on the prohibited list?
The prohibited list is long, extensive and changes each year. There are a lot of terms on there which a doctor would struggle to understand. So for an athlete, using this list to check for performance enhancing drugs in a diet is impractical. However if you do want to take a look at the 2014 list, then click here.
There are also in-competition prohibited substances and out-of-competition prohibited substances. Out-of-competition prohibited substances are banned all the time, whereas in competition prohibited substances are only banned in the run up and during a competition, it’s worth knowing what’s on which list, as you don’t want to get caught out.
Why are substances banned?
Substances on the prohibited list are banned for a reason, well, 3 actually. The first and main one is that a substance or method can or has the potential to improve performance artificially. Secondly, a substance has the potential to cause a risk or harm to the person taking them, and finally a substance that violates the spirit of sport can also be included on the list.
How can I check if what i’m consuming is banned?
If you’re living in the UK, Japan or North America, there is a website (GlobalDRO.com) which can check if your medication contains illegal substances, you simply have to input the name of your medication and it will tell you whether it’s acceptable. (In-competition and out-of-competition). You can check if any of your medication is banned here.
What if I need to take medication for my health?
Sometimes, an athlete may require the use of a banned substance for the sake of their health. If this refers to you, you will need to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). Unless it’s an emergency, you must always gain permission from a doctor or physician before sending your application for a TUE off. More information on TUE’s can be found here.
Are supplements safe to use?
Officially, no. Supplements, whether that be protein shakes, vitamins or dietary aids, are never 100% risk free to consume. There is always a worry that they can contain prohibited substances, there are a few reasons for this, the main one being that the production of supplements is not internationally regulated as well as food and medication, the quality control is often low and there is always that potential that you have a ‘bad batch’.
So what should an athlete do about supplement use?
Assess the risk, ask yourself if it’s worth taking that ‘weight loss’ pill? Do you really need to consume that sports drink? Because even if the product contains a banned substance which isn’t listed as an ingredient, the athlete is still liable to be punished.
The company Informed-Sport helps to check the quality of supplements, if a supplement company has the Informed-Sport logo, then the quality control is to a reasonably high standard. This site allows you to check your supplements against batches that they have tested. So, although this website decreases the chances of your supplement containing a performance enhancing drug, it is still not 100% safe. You can check your supplements here.
What if my coach gives me a supplement and it turns out it’s banned by WADA, am I to blame?
It doesn’t matter whether your coach gave it to you or not, UKAD’s strict liability policy means that if you are found with an illegal substance in your drugs test, you are responsible. If you have any doubt at all about what is going to go into your body, it’s probably not worth the risk. You can combat this risk by only consuming food and drink which you have prepared yourself.
How else can I fail a drugs test?
In the World Anti-Doping Code there are eight Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRV). They consist of the following:
• the presence of a prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers in an athlete’s sample
• use or attempted use by an athlete of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method
• refusing, or failing without compelling justification, to submit to sample collection after notification as authorised in applicable anti-doping rules or otherwise evading sample collection
• violation of applicable requirements regarding athlete availability for out-of-competition testing, including failure to provide whereabouts information and missed tests which are declared based on reasonable rules
• tampering or attempted tampering with any part of doping control
• possession of prohibited substances and prohibited methods
• trafficking or attempted trafficking in any prohibited substance or prohibited method
• administration or attempted administration to any athlete in-competition of any prohibited method or prohibited substance, or administration or attempted administration to any athlete out-of-competition of any prohibited method or any prohibited substance that is prohibited out-of-competition, or assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering up or any other type of complicity involving an ADRV or any attempted ADRV.
Where else can I go to learn more about drugs and how to avoid them?
If you have any other questions, then your first port of call should be to visit the UKAD website.
This site contains much more information on what you can do if you suspect someone of doping, or if you need help on where to turn in relation to doping within your sport. Click here to access the site.
Alternatively, if you have any more specific questions, then feel free to ask me on twitter, my username is @Chrisjoshmills, I’m an accredited UK Anti Doping Advisor and am happy to answer any questions you may have on drugs in sport, sport science or nutrition.