Drug testing in sports

When winning seems to be everything, rather than how you play the game, many athletes are tempted to use any means at all to achieve their goal of being a champion.

Unfortunately, even some great athletes that promoted the good life and swore that they were “clean” were discovered to have gone to the dark side.

Rather than take drugs, there are some safe and effective alternatives to illegal and banned substances that while they do not give the same over-the-top “advantages” that steroids and other hormonal disruptors do, they certainly provide a competitive edge while ensuring proper nutrition and keeping the athlete safe and in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines.

Further, some nutritional products that are on the market in fact can contain ingredients that lead to a positive drug test even though the athlete is not taking drugs but instead is taking a product with too much of a banned substance such as caffeine for example.

The World Anti-Doping Agency was established in 1999 in order to promote, co-ordinate and monitor the battle against drug usage in sport. Athletes themselves are strictly liable for anything found in their bodies that violates the anti-doping guidelines, even though they may have taken a product on the advice of their coach or their doctor.

Many athletes have been found contravening drug laws by consuming cold medications, too much caffeine from “energy drinks” or other performance enhancing ingredients found in nutritional supplements that can be readily purchased legally.

And then there is the dark side. The World Anti-Doping Agency states that substances are banned if they meet at least two criteria of the following three: contain ingredients that enhance performance, put an athlete’s health in question, or violate the spirit of sport.

Of course, there is also a lot of variation in what is available or what is allowed in various countries. I remember being at a world competition where an athlete of great renown was promoting others should buy “Russian steroids” from him to be “really strong.”

As well, nutritional products may contain performance enhancers and stimulants that manufacturers deliberately include in their formulations but neglect to declare on the label of ingredients. They do this so that their brand becomes known as the best to buy.

This practice can lead to athletes unknowingly ingesting banned ingredients and result in a positive drug test. Drug testing in many sports can be random at events or an athlete may be required to show up off season for a random drug test.

Testing positive for a banned substance can result in penalties ranging from partial season suspension, a year suspension, or a lifetime ban from the sport depending on the severity of the infraction.

There are nutritional companies that certify that their products are pure, and non-contaminated with banned substances or metabolic precursors of banned substances and these products bear the Informed-Sport Certified guarantee.

This certification follows rigorous testing and quality guidelines that ensure the products contain no traces of banned substances including those that might occur from cross-contam- ination during the manufacturing process.

Anything that is in the product is listed clearly on the label so that athletes can be assured that they will not test positive from it ingestion. These products also are manufactured under the strictest guidelines for nutritional effectiveness, so athletes and others become healthier.

An interesting article published in the American Society for Nutrition, 2013, by Ronald Maughan, entitled “Quality Assurance Issues in the Use of Supplements with Special Reference to Protein Supplements,” notes that of a 2010 review of 24 commercially available protein supplements tested by ConsumerLab, 31 percent failed the quality assurance test.

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Dr. Jane Riley, EdD., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-8119 cell/text and www.janerileyfitness.com

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