Tuesday 17 September 2019

Anti Doping

A Brief History

I'm sure we've all heard about doping, unless you've been living on the moon for your entire life. However, anti doping is a relatively new thing, especially when considering that doping has been around for many decades. 
One of the earliest doping incidents that I'm aware of is the British cyclist Tommy Simpson, who sadly died during the 1967 Tour de France on the climb up Mont Ventoux. The autopsy revealed that as well as having alcohol in his blood stream there was also the presence of amphetamines and it's widely thought that due to the affect that these had on his mind, the diuretic effect of the drugs and alcohol as well as the heat on the climb, he pushed his body beyond its physical limits and sadly succumbed. 

More recently, many of us will have heard of or remember Ben Johnson smashing the 100m final, and world record, during the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988. In fact it was after Johnson tested positive for stanozolol and was subsequently banned and stripped of his gold medal and with mounting pressure from athletes and the IOC that WADA (World Anti Doping Organisation) was eventually set up in 1999 and has been coordinating the fight against doping in sport internationally ever since and in 2015 the WADA code was changed and is currently the regulations that everyone is adhering to.

Ben Johnson winning gold in the 100m final in Seoul 1988

Following the formation of WADA many countries set up their own anti doping bodies, over the next decade or so and in the UK in 2009 the UKAD was set up (UK Anti Doping), which works under the WADA umbrella and is bound by the rules and regulations set out by them. After UKAD was set up it meant that all of the National Governing Bodies (NGB's) in the country were bound to the UKAD practices, rules and regulations regarding doping and drug use, whether prescribed, over the counter medicines, or more "recreational" and banned substances.

Anti Doping in the UK, know what you're taking

To some athletes, especially at novice level, you might think that doping is something that only elite athletes and pro's do and anti doping, or drug testing is something that only the elites or pro's will be subjected to. As a triathlete the amount of testing in our sport is relatively small, largely due to the infrastructure needed and the cost associated with both in competition and out of competition testing. However the British Triathlon Federation (BTF) is slowly addressing this and you might have heard of numerous age group athletes testing positive for banned substances in the past few years. 

You might also be forgiven for thinking that as an athlete who isn't racing at the "pointy end" of the field, or as someone who just does small races that you'll never be subjected to anti doping regulations or to a drug test, but the testing can and does happen anywhere. As an athlete it's your sole responsibility to know what you're taking and what you're putting into your body. If you're on a prescribed medication you should think about applying to your NGB about obtaining a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) from your Dr and carrying this with you in your kit bag. You might think that if you're just taking an over the counter medicine for a cough etc you'll be fine. How many of you have heard of Alain Baxter, the former skier who tested positive during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake and lost his bronze medal? All from taking an over the counter nasal inhaler, which, unbeknown to him, contained a banned substance. 

You can check what's on the prohibited list by clicking on this link:

In addition to the general prohibited list, if you're taking medication and are unsure whether it's on the prohibited list, or if it contains ingredients that are on the list, you can check on the Global Drug Reference Online (Global DRO), to put your mind at rest and be on the safe side;

Using supplements is also an issue that you need to be aware of and there are some supplements that you can take, which are freely available and that you'd think are totally safe and exempt from the prohibited list, but they can still contain trace amounts of banned substances. If you look on the https://www.informed-sport.com/ website, you'll be able to look in much greater detail what you need to be looking out for and potential pitfalls. Many of these are innocent looking supplements like protein shakes etc and are generally no problem at all, but it's something that you need to be aware of. 

Pressure to dope

There are many, many reasons why people decide to turn to doping and although it's often thought of as a black and white choice of you either dope or you're clean, I think there can be a lot more to it and it's very far from being such a definitive thing. People will decide to dope for many reasons and although I'm 100% behind athlete's being clean, I think that as a coach it's part of our role to understand why people may get their heads turned or become tempted to try it out and it's our job to help educate them and guide them in the right direction, as well as being someone to listen to them and not being the type of person that as soon as someone mentions they might be tempted to dope, not going running off to UKAD. 

When I first started playing rugby, many moons ago, I was lightning fast but had virtually no muscle mass, by rugby player standards, so although I could evade tacklers I was never going to break a tackle and I'll admit that I did have the odd thought of "well if I just use steroids briefly, it'll bulk me up and will help me". I never went down that road, but I understand that there can be pressure and that particular situation was pressure that I'd put on myself. Pressure can be a massive influence and can be both external factors as I'll mention in a moment, or can be psychological. If someone is struggling psychologically, during their training or racing, they might feel like a little "pick me up" or that doping will help them to achieve their dreams.There can also be pressure from external sources too. If you see someone making huge progress that isn't in line with the training they're doing, or how long they've been active in the sport, or if you're an athlete who's just trying to break into the top AG places but can't quite make it, you might feel pressure or feel tempted to try something to give you that edge. But this is absolutely, categorically, not the way to do it. If you find yourself thinking like this, please speak to your coach or someone who will be able to help you and guide you in the right direction. I think doping is a massive area and is one that can be debated til the cows come home, but one thing that can be said with 100% conviction is that doping is wrong and people who dope may just need educating. 

I was recently completing the UKAD Accredited Advisor course and one of the quotes that I read was excellent, it said "100% me = 100% pride, it's what's inside that counts". I think that's a great saying and although there may be athletes who are doping and possibly achieving more, you can take huge satisfaction from knowing that all your achievements are your own and aren't enhanced. 

Going back to the pressure scenario, possibly the most famous doper was Lance Armstrong. As someone who has grown up as a keen cycling fan I used to idolise Armstrong and the way he'd attack or would control races by blowing the opposition away. I didn't believe all the doping stories at first, but it just goes to show that eventually it'll all come tumbling down. It says a lot about how prevalent doping was in that era that the UCI haven't awarded the yellow jersey to anyone else in any of the years that Armstrong was stripped of it, because so many riders in the peloton were doping. In more recent years riders have even said that in order to win you HAD to dope, which is a very sad thing to have to say, but it shows the pressure that some riders were under in order to deliver results. 

If you'd like to speak to me about how I can help you with any aspects of your triathlon training and racing, including the topics that I cover in my blogs, please feel free to message me via my Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/CertaCitoTriCoaching/


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