While the Olympic flame blazes brightly over the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney this month, the burning issue of drugs and athletes never goes out.
In August, for instance, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), responding to international pressure, approved a new test to detect the use of the performance-enhancing drug erythropoietin (EPO) by Olympic athletes. The IOC intends to use an Australian-developed blood test in combination with a urine test developed by French researchers to determine usage.
EPO, the center of a Tour de France drug scandal in 1998, is usually prescribed for those with anemia due to chronic renal failure or use of chemotherapy. Worldclass athletes, however, use it illicitly in endurance sports such as cycling, distance running, and swimming. They discovered that EPO increases the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity.
World-class athletes may not be found in every neighborhood, yet local pharmacists may come in contact with athletes who may be subject to drug testing by a sports-- governing body, said Peter J. Ambrose, Pharm.D. He is associate clinical professor, School of Pharmacy, University of California, San Francisco, and International Olympic Committee doping-control technical officer in Sydney In that case, pharmacists can help those athletes "avoid banned substances considered ergogenic and performance-enhancing."
Even drugs not considered performance-enhancing may be banned for other reasons. Diuretics, for instance, are prohibited because they can act as "masking agents" for other drugs. Information on questionable substances can be obtained in the Athletic Drug Reference (ADR), a reference book of banned, restricted, and permitted drugs for athletes, which is published annually by Glaxo Wellcome and Clean Data Inc. To be absolutely safe, however, the sport's governing body or professional sports organization should be consulted.
"A drug's current status can be verified by contacting the National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] or U.S. Olympic Committee, ' said Jack Rosenberg, Pharm.D., Ph.D., professor of pharmacology at Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Long Island University, and ADR coauthor. "This is the most reliable way, since the ADR is published yearly and a drug's status may change," he said.
In either case, the list of banned substances is substantial, containing more than 24,000 entries, including ingredients in many over-the-counter products, such as antihistamines and decongestants. …