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From the Archives:

Avoid Drug Testing Pitfalls

Compete Clean Corner

By Dr. Cheryl Bellaire, USATF MTF Anti-Doping and Substance Abuse Subcommittee Chair

Something you really need to remember is that, as a USATF athlete, USADA can drug test you at any time, so you should be vigilant about staying clean. Some of the common pitfalls athletes encounter when testing ‘dirty’ include over the counter medicines, supplements and even prescribed medicines.

When prescribed a medicine always be certain that your doctor is aware you could be tested for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Check any drugs you may be prescribed on the Global DRO search. If you do not find the substance you’re looking for by its name, try to look it up by the active ingredients. The results could say, “Not Prohibited”, “Prohibited In-Competition Only” or “Prohibited In-Competition and Out-of-Competition”. If you get a result other than NOT Prohibited for both In-Competition and Out-of-Competition, we recommend filling out a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) Pre-Check form.

The TUE Pre-Check form will determine if you have to obtain a TUE to be allowed to compete. You should receive a response to your TUE Pre-Check within three business days. If it is determined that you need a TUE, the form will have to be filled out by your physician and submitted for approval. If you find that you do need a TUE try first discussing with your doctor whether there is an alternative medicine you could take, if there is not, you must have the doctor complete the TUE. It is recommended that you apply for a TUE well in advance of competition as USADA receives many TUEs from athletes many sports, not just masters, and not just Masters Track & Field.

An example of a prescription medicine pitfall is the common blood pressure medicine, hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ). It is a banned substance, per USADA, as it can serve as a masking agent. Your doctor could prescribed a different blood pressure medicine or fill out a TUE for the HCTZ.

Another common pitfall is over the counter medicines, especially cold and flu medicines. Common ingredient’s to avoid are Pseudoephedrine, Levomethamphetamine, Propylhexedrine and Epinephrine. These products will often have a “D” in the name or be marketed as the non-drowsy, or the “daytime” version of a medication.

When checking the Global DRO, athletes have to be very careful to select the brand that exactly matches the product as a drug company may make many different versions of a cold medicine. Once again, if you don’t see the exact medicine, the active ingredients can be looked up on Global DRO. You cannot get a TUE for over the counter medicines, so prohibited medicines must be avoided.

Lastly, supplements are another pitfall. You may know that testosterone is prohibited but you could take a supplement such as DHEA, which is a precursor of testosterone and which is also prohibited. The problem with supplements is that they are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. This means that the ingredients and concentrations on labels may not be accurate. The manufacturer could also have included a substance in the supplement which is not listed on the label, or is a contaminant. USADA has a link called Supplement Connect where you can check for prohibited substances.

If you and your doctor determine a supplement is necessary, the safest supplements to take are NSF Certified for Sport. NSF (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation) is an independent, third-party body that verifies the purity and safety of each batch of the dietary supplements it certifies.

For questions you can contact USADA’s Drug Reference Line at: or call (719) 785-2000, option 2.

Links mentioned can be found on the USATF Masters Anti-Doping web page: The page can be found on the home page under the drop down menu “For Athletes”.

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