Coach, you need to be informed enough to help your athletes avoid negative outcomes. You work hard in creating a better athlete, a better archer. If you don’t know and teach enough about medications, though, your athlete can be eliminated from the top step, even if she/he makes it there.
I was just reading this article, a ruling where two archers were punished for testing positive for diuretic medications.
Diuretics stimulate the kidneys to lose water, often by excreting more salt, so that blood is thicker. Some athletes use it to “make weight” such as boxers and wrestlers, who compete against others in weight classes. Archers? Not so much. A 90 pound female archer can whup up on a 350 pound macho male in the blink of an eye! So these two archers are confoundedly guilty – a water pill is not, in my opinion,going to provide any measurable improvement in archery skills, but WILL remove them from competition most definitely. I’ll mention in passing that often, abusers will take a diuretic in the hopes it will “flush out” (ie, HIDE) the abuse of a more devious medicine. Not good.
Look, archers, coaches, parents, the rules are very clear and easy to follow. If you are involved with this sport, and you/yours has a chance of competing well, then the chances are there that a NON-OPTIONAL urine test for a banned substance will be in your future.
It’s incredibly easy nowadays to check the drug your doctor wants to prescribe, BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE OFFICE, for safety with USADA – “yew-SAH-duh” – the United States AntiDoping Agency. They are charged with enforcing the rules in the US, and they are to the WORLD Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as the USOC is to the IOC.
Want to know if a drug is safe? USADA has a great, easy to use tool you access using your smartphone, laptop, tablet, or computer, to verify whether any medication, either prescription or over the counter, is SAFE for taking. It only takes a few minutes to preserve an athletic career! By the way, there are PLENTY of drugs you can buy without a prescription, that are forbidden in competition – test positive for one after you think you have won the gold, and you will never, ever, be the same when they publicly humiliate you and strip you of your medal.
What to do? It’s easy!
You go to this link, and I’m going to type it out, not embed it: http://usada.org . You’ll see a page full of things, but we are going to focus on the “substances” choice on the menu across the top:
Left-click on “substances” so you can see several options you need to know about:
- A link to a list of everything prohibited which you can download to your device to use when you are off-line.
- a search tool, “Global DRO Online Tool”
- Drug Reference Telephone Line (yes, you can actually call a human and ASK them)
Mouse-left-click the DRO icon, and then you go through a couple of screens that you need to take an easy, quick action on, such as what country you are in:
You will finally come to this screen, where I have filled in the blanks you will need to fill in with correct answers for who you are: Coach, athlete, etc…
I have chosen a diuretic, one that was part of that case mentioned earlier, called indapamide. Once you click the SEARCH button, you will see a list of ALL the different ways indapamide might be available – say, as a tablet, as an injection, or as part of another combination tablet:
It does not matter which you choose, so select the ingredient you want, and click the “View Status” to find out about in-competition and out-of-competition status of this drug.
See the two red words, “PROHIBITED” ?? How simple is that? Take this drug at anytime in your competitive career, and you risk getting your ticket cancelled. Note also there is a reference number? Let’s say it returned that this was “Not Prohibited“. This would mean that you can safely take the med – so a smart thing would be to print this out and SAVE it to document the fact. Or, take a screen shot and email it to yourself, just in case. This is called “due diligence” – doing what is necessary to protect yourself or your athlete from a mistake made through ignorance. A mistake for which ignorance is NO EXCUSE!
Ok, let’s get to what I think is the most common risk athletes make – treating themselves for common, minor, ailments like “the crud” or the flu – stopped up sinuses – where you just go to the drug store and get a pill to dry out your runny nose. When you check “Sudafed” or “pseudoephedrine” (notice you can search on either brand names or generic names, it doesn’t matter), you get a search result for In-Competition of “Conditional“, so you read further down the screen and it says, “prohibited when the urinary concentration exceeds 150 microgram/mL”.
What that means is that you should NOT take this medication in the week before nor during a competition, unless you can accurately calculate the concentration of the drug in your urine at the time of the test. Without getting too technical, you are NOT up to the task of calculating the volume of distribution, the rate of metabolization and renal clearance, for ANY drug. I’ve done enough math on the half-life for pseudoephedrine and a typical dose, to estimate that a safe margin is no less than 7 days from a single large dose. In some cases it may be many more days than that. So when you see “Conditional“, it is safest to actually read that as “PROHIBITED“.
You should know that virtually no one ever, ever, successfully evades cheating. USADA keeps the urine samples for literally YEARS, and goes back to test again and again as the machines get better and more sophisticated. Medals get revoked even 10 years after they were given, because a new test reveals a cheat.
I’m going through this long exercise, showing you how easy and short it is to CHECK a drug, so that you won’t accidentally take something that causes a broken heart, a lost cause, wasted years of striving to be the best.
Coaches, be proactive on this. Parents, you too! Do the checks WITH your athletes so they know how to do it on their own. Give them homework. “Check out aspirin, Claritin, Afrin, Delsym, and Mucinex-D” and do it yourself, just so you know. These are some of the most common drugs I get questions about.
What were the odds for an archer to be tested at an event EVEN if they aren’t part of some elite unit like the JDT or the USAT? In 2013, a non-games-year, 27 archer urine tests were given by USADA (out of a total of over 9100 tests). In 2012, a “games” year for both the Olympics and Paralympics, FORTY archery tests were administered. When you consider that at the ranking events and trials there are usually less than 300 or so athletes competing, the odds are actually fairly good someone will get the tap on the shoulder, especially if you finish in the top 6 regardless of your status on a team.
About “Therapeutic Use Exemptions” – aka TUE – they are available on a very, very restricted basis for SOME drugs, IF their committee can be convinced that the prohibited medication is the one and only thing keeping you from dying on the field. Seriously, it is incredibly hard to get a TUE. But it can be done. Read more on…you guessed it…. usada.org .