Sochi officials crack down on doping |

Sochi officials crack down on doping

As the athletes compete at the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, anti-doping officials are hard at work ensuring everyone plays by the same rules. In the wake of recent high-profile athletes, such as pro-cyclist Lance Armstrong, admitting to the use of performance-enhancement drugs, it is no surprise the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is closely monitoring and testing athletes. Doping continues to be big business for athletes at the highest levels, trying to achieve even the slightest competitive edge. Testing and detection must keep up. Dr. Richard Budgett, medical director of the International Olympic Committee, claims the Sochi games are the strictest Olympics to date, with more tests conducted and of improved quality.

WADA defines a substance as illegal if it meets at least two of the following requirements: it is performance enhancing, harmful to health, or against the “spirit of the sport.” While this last statement is somewhat vague, WADA states spirit of sport can be further characterized by “health, ethics and fair play.”

Many substances, including prescription medications and over-the-counter products, fit the definition of “illegal.” For example, growth factors, hormones and steroids, such as erythropoietin (EPO), prednisone and testosterone, are prohibited at all times, both in and out of competition. These substances can provide faster recovery rates, reduced inflammation and increased muscle mass, yet may also contribute to blood clots, stroke and liver failure.

Beta-2 agonists (e.g. albuterol, salmeterol), common agents used in asthma inhalers, are also banned, but with exceptions. Some inhaled formulations for the prevention and treatment of asthma may be used up to a maximum dose within a 24-hour timeframe. Yet, when administered in oral or injectable form, beta-2 agonists are thought to have effects similar to steroids.

Insulin is banned, unless one has diabetes, due its ability to boost the body’s store of glycogen, used by muscles as fuel. Insulin use is on the rise since it is a naturally occurring substance in the body, however this practice can cause unsafe drops in blood sugar, potentially leading to death.

Diuretics, often referred to as “water pills,” are illegal, considered masking agents used to excrete water and speed up elimination of other banned substances.

Most stimulants, such as amphetamines (e.g. Ritalin, Adderall), are used to increase physical strength, endurance and resistance to pain, and are prohibited during competition. Caffeine, nicotine and pseudoephedrine (in low doses) are allowed, but monitored by WADA as a means to detect patterns of misuse in sport.

Select narcotics may be used during competition including hydrocodone, specific morphine/codeine ratios and tramadol. Fentanyl, oxycodone, oxymorphone and marijuana are banned.

In response to the increased sophistication of doping among athletes, WADA has developed a new anti-doping code effective in 2015, in advance of the summer games in Rio. Among other things, this code will impose longer bans from competitive sport, increasing ban time to four years, essentially eliminating eligibility in the next Olympic games. Officials believe these new guidelines will make the Rio Olympics the cleanest ever.

Molly Massa is a PharmD Candidate at Eagle Valley Pharmacy, Vail, CO

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