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Doping in Sport

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Anae Dr Neru Leavasa | BHB MBChB FRNZCGP PG DipHsc (Sports Medicine)

General Practitioner | Sports Doctor

On my recent return from the Sports Medicine NZ Conference in Nelson, I couldn't help but appreciate the history of doping in sport and the current regulations that try to keep sports clean from prohibited drugs. It was great to hear from Dr Alan Vernec, the Medical Director of World Anti-Doping Agency also known as WADA on how they manage testings and those who test positive for doping.  Questions flew directed to Dr Vernec from across the floor from clinicians who deal with our elite athletes in New Zealand.

It was great to see debates on why certain drugs were added or not on the prohibited list for WADA. One case would be marijuana on the list as many including myself would see this to impair performance rather than enhance it. However others can debate its inclusion in regards with relieving anxiety levels and improving focus to sport specific tasks. That may be the case but one thing is for sure, they would have an incredible appetite afterwards. 

This conference highlighted the need for all prescribing clinicians to be at least aware that there is a prohibited drug list for those athletes who are likely to be tested. This list is also updated every year. We practice in South Auckland where there is a growing number of elite athletes who regularly see their General Practitioners (GP). Due to my Sports Medicine background I regularly get updated with what’s going on in this field; however, it is interesting to note that it doesn't matter what your background is. There are well seasoned Sports Medicine clinicians who also give drugs that may have been recently added to the list.

The moral of the story is that all prescribing clinicians need to make sure that if you identify an athlete who is playing at a national level or is just about to break into that level then it is important to make sure the drugs you give is not on the prohibited list. If there is no alternative drug then there is a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) form that needs to be filled out either before it is administered or retrospectively in acute urgent cases.

It is also equally important for athletes to make sure you advise your healthcare professional that you are likely to be drug tested and to include this as a notification or alert on your health record. It is great to see our athletes compete at the highest level and it would be a real shame if one was to be banned from a sport they love due to not taking the appropriate steps as outlined above.

Here are some links to help you along your journey.

https://drugfreesport.org.nz/medication-check

https://drugfreesport.org.nz/for-athletes/introduction-to-anti-doping/

https://www.wada-ama.org/en/what-we-do/the-prohibited-list

It is also equally important for athletes to make sure you advise your healthcare professional that you are likely to be drug tested and to include this as a notification or alert on your health record.

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