Chances are you were slightly taken aback by that headline. Perhaps more than “slightly”. The fact of the matter, though, is that you may well be in violation of the World Anti-Doping Code.
Doping has been on top of the news chain for the past several years. Certainly, the exploits of numerous professional cyclists have been well exposed. Who could forget the furor that accompanied the news that Lance Armstrong was found to be a doper? The problem, unfortunately, isn’t isolated to the Tour de France. We’ve read far too frequently about track and field superstars taking steroids, weightlifters bulking up artificially, and even swimmers hitting the juice. Even more recently, we’ve read that the long tentacles of doping have started to wrap themselves into triathlon. Just a few weeks ago, professional triathlete Virginia Berasatagui retired from our sport due to a failed test. It doesn’t stop in the professional ranks, either. Last year, age-grouper Kevin Moats was banned for doping.
Here’s the scary thing: There are likely far more people who would fail a drug test than you might think. And far too many may not even realize that they would fail.
First, some background. As you might expect, doping didn’t just start in the 199o’s. As long as man has competed in sport, he has attempted to find a way to artificially improve his performance. You’ve likely heard tales of athletes using synthetic steroids, human growth hormones, amphetamines, and blood boosting methods. Erythropoietin (EPO) was the “rage” during the 1990’s and early 2000’s. The IOC realized that doping was becoming more and more a problem (partially as a result of many doping scandals in pro cycling), and hence the convening of the First World Conference on Doping in Sport in 1999. This International Olympic Committee convened conference examined the history of doping in all sports and sought to come up with a solution. The World Anti-Doping Agency was born from this conference, and officially came into existence in late 1999. After much work and three major conferences, the World Anti-Doping Code was finalized and implemented in January 2009.
The WADA Code lays out a list of prohibited substances and methods, testing programs, international standards, and procedures for securing Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE’s) to offset the use of some otherwise banned substances. The Code distinguishes substance use as “In-Competition” and “Out-of-Competition”, and the overall status of a substance might differ depending upon the classification. Additionally, some items are considered acceptable out of competition and in-competition, but only up to a certain threshold. Amounts taken beyond that threshold (typically in-competition would be banned).
There are many drugs and substances on the WADA list. Generally there are several categories of substances that are prohibited: Anabolic (steroid) agents, Peptide Hormones (like EPO), Beta blockers, Diuretics, and a few others. Additionally, you can’t manipulate your blood or blood components to increase the ability to absorb oxygen, take stimulants, narcotics, cannabinoids (uh…duh…like pot), or glucocorticosteroids.
Here’s where this all gets interesting. Included on this list are things that some people need to take for medical reasons, or are otherwise advised by their doctor to take (I use that phrase somewhat loosely…I’ll explain why below).
Take for example, you’re a mid-forties guy. You’ve got receding hair, a little pot belly, some stress, and a hectic life. Maybe you’re not sleeping as well as you used to. Or maybe you aren’t recovering as quickly as you did ten years ago. Sex life? Don’t you need libido for that? Sound familiar? Of course it does. In fact – this may very well describe yours truly. All too often, general practitioners will tell you (and marketers will support) that all of this is due to low Testosterone levels. Doctors will go so far as to prescribe T for lots of guys to help bring up their blood levels. I know first-hand; my GP has tried for two years to get me to start taking T. I don’t really “need” T. My levels were considered “low-normal”, basically on the low-end of the normal range approved by the FDA. I chose not to take T. Lots of guys do, though. And guess what? Surprise, surprise! Testosterone is a banned substance! Plus the likelihood of securing a TUE is extremely low for cases where men have “low-normal” T levels.
Have other conditions? How about ADHD? Maybe you take Ritalin? That’s prohibited too. Take dietary supplements? Those may contain prohibited substances. Believe it or not, some things that are seemingly normal, everyday medications, fall on the WADA list. Sudafed, Symbicourt, Prednisone, Phentermine. Just a few examples. There are certainly others.
There’s an adage that you are the sole person responsible for what you ingest. It is our personal responsibility to understand the medicines, supplements or vitamins that we take and whether or not they are prohibited in or out of competition. Each of us needs to be 100% sure that we’re not violating the WADA code. The unfortunate thing, however, is that far too many athletes don’t have any clue about (1) what they really are taking, and (2) what’s on the banned list.
Luckily for us, there are a significant amount of resources on the internet to help us educate ourselves. I strongly suggest that you take a few minutes to review these sites. Take the time to check each and every one of the prescriptions or supplements you take against the WADA database. If needed, take the steps to fill out and submit a TUE – even if you’re just an age-grouper with no designs on winning a race or turning professional.
Some critical resources:
- World Anti-Doping Agency: www.wada-ama.org/en/. This site is your best starting place. Here you can find lots of information about the history of doping, the structure of WADA and links to lots of information about what is banned and not banned. Furthermore, you’ll find information about how to file a TUE
- US Anti-Doping Agency: www.usada.org. This is the website for the US antidoping federation. Here you will find news, details on testing procedures, and more.
- Global Drug Reference Online: www.globaldro.org. This is a website where you can search to see if your prescription, supplement or other drugs are on the prohibited list
- Supplement 411: www.supplement411.org. This website gives lots of information that you need to know about supplements. You think those diet pills, sexual enhancers or other supplements might be beneficial for you? After you review this website, you might just have second thoughts.
Be smart. We all hate cheaters. We all get disgusted when we read about someone caught doping. It’s an affront to sportsmanship. It’s gaming the game. It’s dirty. Don’t be that guy or gal who cheats.
Take the time to educate yourself. Share what you know with others. The integrity of our sport is in our hands…