Question of the Week

February 6, 2006


The 2006 Winter Olympics have already sparked some controversy.

"'Doping is cheating. Doping is akin to death. Death physiologically, by profoundly altering, sometimes, irreversibly, normal processes through unjustified manipulations. Death physically, as certain tragic cases in recent years have shown. But also death spiritually and intellectually, by agreeing to cheat and conceal one's capabilities, by recognising one's incapacity or unwillingness to accept oneself, or to transcend one's limits. And finally death morally, by excluding oneself de facto from the rules of conduct required by all human society.' H. E. Juan Antonio Samaranch, President, International Olympic Committee"

While few will argue that performance enhancing drugs are fair, many fail to remember that their use does more than just cheat one's opponents -- their use is dangerous.

"People have always attempted to artificially improve their performances using relatively simple methods. At the Rome Games in 1960, a Danish runner died after having taken a strong dose of amphetamines. The history of the Games is littered with doping cases that have always damaged the spirit of sport as much as the athletes themselves. That is why, for more than 30 years, the IOC has been radically against doping for the following principles:
* Protecting athletes' health
* Respecting medical and sporting ethics
* Maintaining equal opportunities for all during competitions
These principles are accompanied by a list of prohibited substances, methods and manipulations. Chemical substances such as diuretics, hormones, EPO, steroids, etc. are prohibited."

With so many substances to remember, athletes must be vigilant.

"It is each Athlete's personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his or her body. Athletes are responsible for any Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers found to be present in their bodily Specimens. ... The Prohibited List is the list published and revised by WADA pursuant to the Code. The NOCs [National Olympic Committees] shall be responsible for ensuring that their delegations, including their Athletes, are made aware of such Prohibited List. Ignorance of the Prohibited List shall not constitute any excuse whatsoever for any participant in any capacity in the Olympic Games."
From : "Anti-Doping Rules - Turin 2006"
Available at:

As we have recently seen, not being vigilant has its consequences.

"Jan.10, 2006, 10:04 pm CST; Updated: Jan.11, 2006, 1:13 am CST
U.S. skeleton slider Zach Lund will miss this weekend's World Cup race in Germany -- and quite possibly the Torino Olympics -- after testing positive for a drug masking agent earlier this season. Lund, the overall World Cup points leader and perhaps the U.S. men's best hope for Olympic gold, was suspended Tuesday after testing positive for the hair restoration drug Finasteride ... Finasteride, which has been known to mask certain performance enhancing drugs, is also sold as the brand name Propecia. Shea said Lund had only been taking Finasteride for thinning hair, but should have known it could get him into trouble. 'It is not a steroid. It is not an enhancer. It's what they called a blocker,'' Shea said. 'Zach has been taking a pill a day since 1999 to prevent male balding, losing his hair. This drug came on the list within the last year and Zach didn't know it. He wasn't doing due diligence and it's an athlete's responsibility.' "

Banned substances include more than just steroids and performance enhancers. Blockers, such as Finasteride, are banned because they can hide the use of other substances; even high levels of hemoglobin can be a cause for concern.

"Four more cross-country skiers received five-day suspensions Friday for testing positive for high levels of hemoglobin in their blood, bringing the total to 12 in two days. ... There is no proof that the athletes did anything wrong: Elevated hemoglobin can be caused by simple dehydration or the body's acclimation to mountain air. But the test result raises the possibility of blood doping with synthetic hemoglobin or transfusions to increase the oxygen in the muscles. ... Athletes who fail blood tests are retested five days later. ... 'We are confident that five days is a sufficient time to allow for the blood values to normalize if they are the result of living at a high altitude or dehydration,' said Bengt Saltin, chairman of the FIS medical committee. 'However, a five-day period is not sufficient to remove the impact of EPO (erythropoietin) or blood transfusion.' "

Whatever the cause of the irregular blood test, the concerns are the same: the health of the athlete, the integrity of the athlete and the sport, and the fairness of the event.

"Athletes sometimes take anabolic steroids because of their testosterone-like effects, such as increasing muscle mass and strength. Steroids can be taken in the form of pills, powders, or injections. Another group of anabolic steroids, sometimes called steroidal supplements, contain dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and/or androstenedione (also known as andro). Steroidal supplements are often sold at health food stores or gyms. The effects of steroidal supplements aren't well known, but it's thought that, when taken in large doses, they cause effects similar to stronger anabolic steroids like testosterone. Here's what is known: companies that manufacture steroidal supplements often make claims that are false and very little is known about the long-term effects on the body of some of these substances."

New substances are banned as people try to create ways to get around what is currently included on the Prohibited List. As new uses for old substances are found, those are often added to the list, as well.

"The Prohibited List (List) was first published in 1963 under the leadership of the International Olympic Committee. Since 2004, as mandated by the World Anti-Doping Code (Code), WADA is responsible for the preparation and publication of the List.
* The List is a cornerstone of the Code and a key component of harmonization.
* It is an International Standard identifying Substances and Methods prohibited in-competition, out-of-competition, and in particular sports.
* Substances and methods are classified by categories (e.g., steroids, stimulants, gene doping).
* The use of any Prohibited Substance by an athlete for medical reasons is possible by virtue of a Therapeutic Use Exemption."

A link to the list of banned substances is available at the site listed above.

Questions of the Week:
For those who know they will never be drug tested, what reasons would they have for avoiding the substances on the "Prohibited List"? In what ways does the existence of the "Prohibited List" affect sports at various levels? Why might the "Prohibited List" matter to high school athletes? College athletes? and Professional athletes? In what ways does the "Prohibited List" fulfill the purposes for which is was created? In what ways is it difficult for a "List" to meet those needs? How might this "List" be valuable to those who do not participate in organized sports?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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