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  • Writer's pictureTristan

Doping: a boundary sometimes exceeded


Sports performance maximisation is becoming more and more important which leads athletes to be attracted by “magic products” which claim to massively enhance performance. Some of these supplements can be legally used but athletes should always be careful about what they ingest as they could get banned if they are found with doping substances in their system.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is leading all the decisions regarding the ban of substances and relies on its core principles to keep a fair and safe sporting environment. WADA declared that any product which could improve sports performance but potentially harms athletes and violates the positive spirit of sport is considered a doping product. The prohibited list is updated every year, based on the newest scientific research.

Athletes proceed to many random doping tests regularly during their training, competitions, and even in their daily life. During these tests, athletes need to provide urinary or blood samples, or other types such as hairs or saliva depending on what is asked by the authority leading the test. Different sample types can be asked in one visit. If the athlete is positive, all results from the competition are deleted and his/her right to compete in other events is removed. In some cases, a penal sanction can also be given if the ingested substance is illegal in the given country the athlete was tested in. Multiple positive tests can worsen their sanction. Moreover, if the athlete runs away from the test and fails to provide a sample, it is considered a violation, and similar sanctions as a positive test are applied.

As a result of the regular updates of the prohibited list, the athletes need to be well surrounded by people who know what is right or wrong to ingest and to also be careful. Medical teams are sometimes even embedded in sports clubs to ensure the compliance of the sports products with the WADA prohibited list to avoid positive tests. However, it is still possible for athletes to ask for a “Therapeutic Use Exemption” in case of medical needs to treat certain health conditions such as the use of a Ventolin inhaler for people with asthma (which is normally forbidden in competition). Labels such as “Informed Sport” help athletes choose products with much less risk of containing doping substances. These products have been tested for prohibited substances and the results revealed the absence of doping substances. However, athletes should not think that it has no risk as these products could contain a small trace of a prohibited substance that was not detected by the test, but if ingested in a higher dose could result in a positive test. Cross-contamination could also occur if the tested product is manufactured in the same factory as another product containing inhibited substances.

To conclude, ingesting sports products is a decision that needs to be well thought out, accounting for the benefits that the product could bring to the performance or health, as well as the associated risks (whether it is being tested positive for a doping test or health risks). Education and prevention are therefore essential in the sporting world to avoid unpleasant surprises.


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