Tuesday, 5 June 2012
My pseudoephedrine, caffeine and diclofenac shame: ‘drug cheats’, ‘performance-enhancing’ or ‘performance-enabling’?
As a one-time marathoner I have risked being banned for my use of pseudoephedrine, in an over the counter cold remedy. Was I a drug cheat? I would argue no, since no amount of drug use would have enabled me to win. I had a cold and, risking my health, decided to enable my performance by using a ‘performance-enhancing’ drug. I’d done the training, I wanted to do the race.
My best Marathon (London 1985, 3hours 1min 34 seconds) followed 2 years of 50 miles a week, 3 weeks without alcohol, one week without tea or coffee and a super strong cup of black coffee on the morning of the marathon. Caffeine is on the World Anti Doping Agency’s (WADA) permitted list but it’s use is monitored.
All this running has come back to haunt me in the form of osteoarthritis in my legs. An ongoing prescription for diclofenac (sold as Voltarol) followed diagnosis. It fights inflammation and pain and allowed me to continue running. Concern for my health - ie that its use was masking further damage to my knees, hips and toes - means I’m currently ‘clean’ and exercising with pain.
I have criminological doubts about sport’s ‘War on Drugs’ and will write about it shortly in an Olympic Special but my own legal, ‘monitored’ and banned drug use meant I was also recently interested in FIFAs recent concern about painkillers.
FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Jiri Dvorak has said that the ‘abuse’ of painkillers could put the careers and long-term health of footballers in jeopardy.
In the British Journal of Sports Medicine Tscholl and Dvorak report that during the tournament 71.7% of all players took medication, and 60.3% (444 of 736 players) took painkilling agents at least once. Over a third of players (39.0%) took a painkilling agent before every game! Some of that would have been my little helper, diclofenac.
I worry that this is bad for their health. Dr Geyer of WADA is reported to be concerned about the rise of the use of painkillers in training and competition. But says:
I think the control of these substances is impossible, as they are easily available in society. Therefore it is not possible to treat the use of painkillers in the same way as other doping substances.
The very extensiveness of societal caffeine acceptance/abuse has largely kept it out of anti-doping regimes and completely out of media chants of ‘drug cheat’. Might an arthritic generation accept diclofenac abuse and the rave generation yet more recreational use and use in recreation?