The Athlete

Banned Substances

On The Ground - A Team Medical Officers Problems

So it's that simple: you're given a list of banned substances, you tell your team, and its clearly visible in black and white, so any mistakes must be totally the responsibility of the player/competitor - right ? WRONG! And here's a few examples of why...

First of all, medicines are subjected to a similar degree of marketing as other "consumable" goods, so in the manufacturers desire to get "product recognition" you will come across hoards of products that LOOK the same, but are far from being so. This applies to prescription and equally to "over-the-counter" medicines. Read the label-carefully, if in doubt, ask!

One week, we compile a list of "banned or not" medicines, including all over-the-counter medicines. Included on this list were examples of confusing product brands like Anadin, Lem-sip, Beechams...this week we discover Lem-sip has RE-BRANDED and RE-PACKAGED all their products! This underlines the need to have UP-TO-DATE accurate information, with clear description of any differences between the packs, and their contents.

NONE of the banned drugs lists can claim to have ALL the products included at any time, due to the frequency of changes in medicines production. Many drugs and Nutritional products come under the umbrella of "...and related substances".

Ireland is particularly prone to variation in product appearance, as well as drug ingredient, because the NORTHERN IRISH product list is significantly different. Drugs that are OK in the republic may look the same on the pack as products in N.I. , but they may contain banned ingredients. Again a good example is Lem-sip.

The BANNED product in NI is almost identical to one of the ALLOWED products in the Republic!!

In addition, products that are Pharmacy-only may be available even in corner-shops and garages in N.I. Bearing in mind our GAA, Hockey, Bowling and IRFU organisations among others encompass both jurisdictions this is VERY SIGNIFICANT.

Banned drugs and substances CAN BE ALLOWED and substances that don't test positive CAN CAUSE A BAN! Examples of this would be medicines absolutely essential for the health of an athlete. Insulin is widely abused in sport, but is absolutely necessary in Diabetics, many of whom are high profile athletes: (Geoff Capes, Steve Redgrave) as long as these are registered by an athlete through his/her GP and the Group's Medical Officer/Doctor (using the APPROPRIATE FORM)

An example of non-banned substances causing a ban (or worse) would be Sodium Bicarbonate (Bread Soda) or one of the many so-called "food supplements" which may contain banned ingredients. Soda-doping is a dangerous and banned practice where endurance athletes (cycling, long-distance runners) take massive overdoses of Bread Soda, trying to counter the Lactic Acid build-up in muscles.

FOOD SUPPLEMENTS include all those products like Herbs, Vitamins, Minerals and "muscle improving" nutritional products which have no means of proving safety or credibility for athletes. The adage stands: that "IF IN DOUBT-CHUCK IT OUT!" Many Nutritional products that are claimed to be "clean" are manufactured under very questionable conditions, but as these are not Pharmaceutical products, no laws exist to protect the Consumer. As a result, MANY of these cause bans because of contamination by banned ingredients during Production. Slimming products and Ginseng may contain banned stimulants, Creatine can contain steroids, herbs can contain toxic heavy metals, so unless quality can be absolutely verified, they should be avoided. (Many professional Soccer Teams get an analytical laboratory to regularly test one brand of supplement, and will then ONLY recommend this brand)

Because of the relatively low level of information supply until very recently, Prescribers and Advisers are very worried about getting the message wrong, or even inadvertantly giving the wrong product.

An example would be if a player needs stitching on the field, doctors often use a local Anaesthetic, often containing Adrenaline. This is not essentially banned, but it is IN RUGBY, so mistakes can happen. The only defence of this is INFORMATION.

Medical Officers MUST keep up-to-date and watch for changes to the lists, as well as recording everything they give, if this means having to carry a small notepad onto the pitch in the pouring be it! • Likewise, confusion, panic and misinformation are causing players who NEED medicine not to take it (Asthmatics, Arthritis sufferes, Hayfever, for example) So a list of ALLOWED substances is also crucial.

This website is intended to give the public access to as much help as possible on banned substances under IOC rules, and will regularly update Product and Professional lists to give the Athlete as much chance as possible to protecting themselves from taking a banned substance. Any queries will be dealt with either under "FAQ's" or via contact with a local Professional adviser. A list of these is available on the website and will be regularly updated. There is no substitute to informed advice from Doctors and Pharmacists who have detailed knowledge of the Drugs involved. Guidelines are clear and laid out in another part of this website.

Information for the informed athelete: