Athletes and Drugs: A Separate Pace?

In clinical interviews with a small group of athletes, I received some verydisturbing news about drug U#. One athlete, who demanded anonymity, reported believing that "deak are cut all the time with federations and national governing bodies. The big-gun athletes--the world-record holders and the medalists--get passed over in the drug testing, so that no scandak take place. That's why I was shocked when Ben Johnson got caught. I thought, My God, they caught a world-record holder! They caught the star of the Olympics! I couldn't believe he got caught. I thought somebody should have gotten him off or something. He's the biggest person in trackand.field history."

Many athletes were quite discouraged about the prolific use of anabolic steroids, HGH (human growth hormone), blood doping, and other performanceenhancement strategies. They recounted many horror stories about athletes who had trained most of their adult life for the olympic games, made the U S. team, and arrived on their competition day to find that their colleagues were using banned substances and beating them. Some athletes suggested that we hold two Olympics--one drug-induced and the other for those who test completed clean.

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The general feeling among elite athletes is that most Olympians Both in the United States and abroad) are using performance-enhancement drugs, and that only a few great athletes in the world are not using them. Although the negative effects of steroid use are well known, the consensus is that many will use them anyway to achieve their athletic goals.

There is still much controversy surrounding illegal and unethical drug activity. In fact, as this piece went to press, a prominent German track and field athlete, Katrin Krabbe, was suspended for four years, along with two other sprint champions and their coach. A 100- and 200-meter gold medalist at the world championships, Krabbe had been manipulating drug testing procedures, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) disclosed.

Although all three athletes were suspected of steroid use for years, they were technically suspended only for manipulating the required urine samples during [unreadable] random drug test. [unreadable] long after, a noted German physician came forward and documented decades of anabolic-steroid use among some of the most famous olympic champions.

Yet steroids are only part of the picture when it comes to medications banned by the 10C. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can also affect athletic preformance, and many of them, including analgesics, antithistamines, and decongestants are on the IOC's list of banned substance.

This summer, the biggest competitor some athletes will [unreadable] id allergy to [unreadable] pollens. These are revalent in the United States and will be abundant during the olympic games in Barcelona. The European variety of nettle even stronger than the U.U. variety, and [unreadable] therefore produce severe reactions. Three other weed at will be predominant in Barcelona are gweed, goosefoot, [unreadable] plantain.

Decongesttants that could releive the symptoms of such allergies are banned by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) because they stimulate and can enhance OTC antithistamines,performance. on the other hand, which can "impair" performance, are not banned.

According to Wade Exum, M.D., director of drug control administration for the USOC, elite athletes should take the cautious approach to using OTC medications. Using them, he reports, "is a double-edge sword, because the cost--to benefit ratio can easily tilt in the wrong direction." The symptomatic relief that initially enhances performance may be swiftly overshadowed by detrimental effects such as nervoussness, impaired concentration, or even elevated blood pressure or irrigular heartbeat.

Athletes preparing for the Olympics and considering the use of OTC medications to self-treat minor ailments are urged to contact the USOC Drug Education Program to obtain a guide to banned medications.

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