About the World Anti-Doping Agency and List of Prohibited Substances

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About the World Anti-Doping Agency and List of Prohibited Substances

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), recently had this to say about the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) McLaren report, which has resulted in over 100 Russian athletes being banned from Olympic participation:

“The IOC report isn’t responsible for the fact that the information, which was presented to WADA several years ago, did not lead to any action. Therefore, the IOC can’t be responsible for the timing and reason of what we we’re facing. Because we’re facing this with just a few days before the Olympic games.”

world anti-dopingBut what is the World Anti-Doping Agency? And what is this “List of Prohibited Substances and Methods“?

According to the website, the WADA List was first published in 1963, under the leadership of the International Olympic Committee. Since 2004, WADA has been responsible for it publication.

The List offers an International standard which identifies substances and methods that are prohibited in one or more of three ways: in-competition, out-of-competition (at all times) and in particular sports.

The current list valid until December 31, 2016.

Substances prohibited at all times include the following categories:

  • Non-Approved Substances – “Any pharmacological substance…not addressed by any of the subsequent sections of the List and with no current approval by any governmental regulatory health authority for human therapeutic use.”
  • Anabolic Agents
  • Peptide hormones, growth factors, related substances and mimetics
  • Beta-2 agonists
  • Hormone and metabolic modulators
  • Diuretics and masking agents

Those prohibited in-competition also include stimulants, narcotics, cannabinoids, and glucocorticoids.

Interestingly, alcohol is prohibited in-competition only for the following sports: airsports, archery, automobile, and powerboating.

Here’s a breakdown of the the drugs are they are classified into categories:

Anabolic Steroids

Nadzeya Ostapchuk tested positive for the anabolic steroid Metenolone in 2012.

Not surprisingly, anabolic steroids are some of the most common drugs used by athletes.

Athletes in nearly every sport have been busted from using these drugs – weightlifters, swimmers, and sprinters are common, but also those in power sports, such as soccer and cycling.

Most simply put, anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones which resemble testosterone in promotion of muscle growth.

We’ve all heard about the nasty side effects of using these, including mood swings and aggression.

Anti-Inflammatory Steroids

Anti-inflammatory steroids, or glucocorticoids, do not build muscle, but rather, can break them down. However, they are often used as pain relievers, and may provide users with a quick burst of adrenaline, as well as a mild endurance boost. Those athletes who suffer from injuries may use these drugs to help with pain management, among other benefits.


Amphetamines, such as Adderall, and other stimulants can enhance alertness, increase reaction time,improve blood flow to muscles, and produce feelings of euphoria or aggressiveness. They can also increase endurance and muscle strength.

However, due to increased heart rate and decreased heat regulation, many cyclists have died using stimulants during competition. Athletes often caught using these drugs include those in track, cycling, swimming, soccer, and rugby.


This category consists of both hormones and drugs that modulate hormones. Most notably, the kidney-producing hormone erythropeietin (EPO) assists the body in making more oxygen-carrying, endurance-enhancing red blood cells. Another is human growth hormone (HGH) which athletes may try since it’s a bit tougher to detect than steroids. Also included are insulin, drugs which treat beast cancer, and fertility drugs.

Diuretics/Masking Agents

Amine Laalou tested positive in 2012 for furosemide, a diuretic.

Diuretics or water pills, are sometimes used by wrestlers and those in weight classes to lose weight quickly.

However, they also dilute the concentration of other drugs in urine, possibly enough to result in a negative blood test.

Beta Blockers

Beta blockers are used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart rate. Other effects of these drugs include a calming sensation and loss of nervous jitters. They are prohibited in sports which require steady hands, such as archery, shooting, and golf.

Asthma Drugs

Not something you would normally think of, but relatively common nonetheless. Asthma drugs help open breathing passages, but may also increase fat-burning and muscle growth. Examples are fluticasone and budesonide.

A Canadian study in 2015 discovered that as many as 25% of Olympic-level swimmers have a diagnosis for asthma, and athletes with this condition can use certain drugs without penalty. Common abusers of these drugs include cyclists, swimmers, and runners.

Recreational Drugs

Nicholas Delpopolo (Judo) tested positive for cannabis in 2012.

Well, this category pretty much covers the rest of them.

Recreational drugs include marijuana and narcotics, such as non-prescription opioids, heroin, or cocaine.

However, very few athletes are actually suspended for using these drugs – at least when compared to performance-enhancing substances.


Prohibited methods include blood doping, in which athletes keep bags of their own blood to replace later intravenously in order to boost red blood cell count.

Gene doping is another banned method, and includes “the transfer of polymers of nucleic acids or nucleic acid analogues” or “the use of normal or genetically modified cells.”

Currently, there is no evidence that gene doping has been used for athletic performance-enhancement in any sporting events.

Also included is tampering, which is the intent to alter the integrity and validity of testing samples, such as urine.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

Primary Sources:

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