banned substances

Banned Substances: Athletes still at risk of accidental doping

Sportsmen and women need access to supplements and medicinal products that are clearly labelled as safe for them to take in terms of doping regulations. That is a key conclusion to emerge from a UK questionnaire survey of 196 Olympic-level athletes from the fields of athletics, cycling, rowing and sailing.

The questionnaire was designed to look at athletes’ perception of the problem of ‘accidental doping’, assess their educational needs and find ways of reducing their risk of taking banned substances inadvertently. Only 74 replies were received (38%), which may be because doping is a sensitive issue for athletes. The main findings were as follows:

  • Although more than 90% of responders had received a doping educational update in the last six months, more than half thought the authorities should do more to educate sportspeople;
  • Four people (more than 5% of responders) admitted taking a banned substance by accident, and 41 people (55%) reported taking supplements;
  • When asked to suggest as many everyday products as possible that might contain banned substances, the average number of suggestions was only about two, which the researchers regard as ‘disappointing’. Of the supplement users, more than half failed to mention supplements in this context;
  • The team doctor was the most popular source of help if information on a substance or product was required.

‘This survey suggests,’ conclude the researchers, ‘that despite regular educational updates, some sportspeople are not fully prepared to avoid accidental doping violations.’ They call for some kind of ‘athlete safe’ labelling on supplements and medicinal products, together with improved access to information about banned substances on a 24hour worldwide basis.

Br J Sports Med 2005; 39:512-516

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