Caffeine considered for banned drugs list in sport
The World Today - Thursday, 19 May , 2005 12:42:00
Reporter: Steve Marshall
ELEANOR HALL: The international body which regulates drugs in sport has weighed into the caffeine tablets debate, with World Anti-Doping Agency officials saying they're concerned about research by the Australian Institute of Sport.
That research found caffeine is performance enhancing and the World Body now says it's considering banning or restricting caffeine in all its forms for competing athletes.
But the Institute of Sport says such an approach would not only be too hard to enforce, it could also undermine lucrative sponsorship deals between athletes and companies like Coca-Cola.
As Steve Marshall explains.
STEVE MARSHALL: There's been a string of surprising confessions by high profile athletes about taking caffeine tablets to boost their performance.
First it was AFL players, then the Australian Rugby Union captain George Gregan. The Men's Australian Hockey team won gold in Athens last year after taking caffeine tablets. Former Australian pentathlete Alex Watson was expelled from the Olympics in 1988 after he tested positive to excess levels of caffeine.
But caffeine has never been on the World Anti-doping Agency's banned list. It was on its restricted list until early last year. That meant only a certain level of caffeine was allowed in an athlete's body.
According to the Australian Institute of Sport's Head of Nutrition, Louise Watson, placing caffeine back on WADA's restricted substances list is a waste of time.
LOUISE WATSON: Personally, I think a black and white rule as impractical or even as nonsensical or whatever your view is that you like to take, that would be in some ways easier to live by to some aspects of working with athletes, than it would be to have a restricted level.
A restricted level was always ambiguous and it was always problematic in terms of could you have a little bit, or could you not? It would be easier to ban it outright in some ways, even though that would make it awfully difficult for athletes to achieve that ? but at least it would be a very clear indication of what was meant, rather than having some kind of ambiguity there.
STEVE MARSHALL: But banning caffeine outright isn't that simple. Caffeine is used in not only coffee, but many other food and drink products, like hot chocolate, energy drinks and over the counter medications.
Louise Watson says banning the drug outright may create undesirable outcomes for athletes and sports sponsorship.
LOUISE WATSON: And there would be the practical implications of trying to educate athletes about that, and then of course then you're going to have a whole lot of positive tests which occur and probably continue to occur because of the difficulties doing that, and the stigma attached with that.
But in terms of other aspects of sport, perhaps all the sponsors of sport like the Coca-Colas who have products that do contain caffeine, are going to have difficulties, and I would imagine that the loss of sponsorship dollars that that would mean to a lot of sports and organisations would also have major implications.