• Valentina Colombo

INADVERTENT DOPING – What is it? Causes and Anti-Doping Code

Inadvertent doping refers to the unintended use of prohibited substances. According to WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) Anti-Doping Code, a violation of this code occurs when a prohibited substance (or its metabolites or markers) is found in a body sample, regardless of whether the athlete has voluntarily ingested these substances or not. Here is the link to download the code in .PDF format for free.

The most frequent causes of inadvertent doping are: • Use of medicines • Contaminated food supplements • Contaminated food




MEDICINES An athlete can inadvertently take doping substances if the drug taken contains prohibited ingredients that the athlete is not aware of. In this case, the athlete could assume that the medicine is safe since it was received following a medical prescription, or they could have misinterpreted the leaflet inside the package as the nomenclature used in the list of pharmaceutical agents is different from the one of the list of prohibited substances. Furthermore, it must be considered that there are substances such as Pseudoephedrina and Salbutamol that are prohibited only beyond a certain amount. These quantities are fine for “medical” use, but if the athlete misses the dose and takes more than he should, he may unknowingly exceed the limit. The greatest risk in this case is represented by over-the-counter products and do-it-yourself medicines, especially when it comes to medicines that have different formulations based on the brand and the geographical area.

CONTAMINATED FOOD SUPPLEMENTS There have been many reports of food supplements contaminated with prohibited substances. An increased risk is mainly represented by herbal supplements as the individual ingredients are not always indicated. Contamination can occur during the production process in production centers that do not comply with standard rules, where the products are not adequately produced and the prohibited substances can get in contact with other products; this can happen both during the supplements production and when the materials have not been processed yet. Another cause of contamination is when the contamination is voluntary… you will rightly ask yourself “Why do I have to contaminate a supplement during the manufacturing phase?” because unfortunately this happens when someone wants to increase the effectiveness of a product by avoiding adhering to the strict rules on the use of drugs, such as Dimethylamylamine (DMMA), for example, a substance similar to amphetamine that was used in the past in food supplements such as ” fat burner” and was then officially banned by WADA and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). CONTAMINATED FOOD This possibility arises especially when an athlete consumes meat containing prohibited growth promoters that are used to increase the animal’s lean mass such as clenbuterol and zeranol. In EU countries these products are prohibited, but WADA has found the use of anabolic agents in farms in non-EU countries. The use of the zeranol is permitted in the United States and Canada. Therefore, the risk increases when meat from these countries is consumed. Other foods accused of inadvertent doping are products that contain hemp and marijuana derived from Hemp Sativa and poppy seeds as they may contain morphine. And when I read poppy seeds I thought about all poppy seeds muffins I ate here in the UK!!! These are the three main causes; additional risks are represented by sabotage and ingestion of prohibited drugs through sharing cigarettes or direct intimate contact, for example if you kiss someone who has used these substances, see for example the case of the US Anti-Doping Agency vs Gil Roberts. Unfortunately, today it is not possible to completely delete the risk of inadvertent doping, but what we can do is to reduce this risk by spreading our knowledge as Sport Scientists and Sports Professionals to our athletes, making them aware that this danger really exists and developing a sports environment in which priority is given to the athlete’s well-being and not to victory. Watch the video with English subtitles on YouTube and subscribe to the channel:




References Backhouse, S. et al. (2017) ‘The BASES expert statement on inadvertent doping in sport.’ Backhouse, S. H. et al. (2017) ‘Tackling doping in sport: a call to take action on the dopogenic environment.’ Geyer, H. et al. (2004) ‘Analysis of non-hormonal nutritional supplements fo anabolic-androgenic steroids – Results of an international study.’ Martinez-Sanz, J. M. et al. (2011) ‘The behaviour change wheel: a new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions.’ World Anti-Doping Agency (2015) ‘World Anti-Doping Code.”

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