Wada drug changes warning to sports stars

WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) president Sir Craig Reedie has told athletes they have “ample time” to familiarise themselves with the updated list of banned drugs for 2017.

Last September’s addition to the banned list of heart-boosting drug meldonium managed to catch out hundreds of athletes, including tennis star Maria Sharapova, in the first few months of 2016.

Reedie is keen to avoid any repeat and, in a statement published on Wada’s website, he said: ““The list is released three months ahead of taking effect so that all stakeholders – in particular athletes and their entourage – have ample time to familiarise themselves with the list and its modifications.”

Sharapova, 29, tested positive for meldonium in January and was given a backdated two-year ban in June.

This year’s changes are relatively minor with only a handful of new performance-enhancing substances added to the list, including the muscle-building agent ‘Delta-2’, a stimulant used to treat an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder called lisdexamfetamine, and nicomorphine, a powerful painkiller.

But perhaps the most important revision is more clarity on how much asthma medication athletes are allowed to take without asking for a therapeutic use exemptions, the doctor’s notes that have been in the news ever since Russian hackers the ‘Fancy Bears’ stole them from Wada’s database and started leaking them.

Athletes have been reminded that they cannot take the permitted daily dosage of widely used drugs such as salbutamol and salmeterol in one go, and the manufacturers’ recommended dosages for these drugs, which all come under the beta-2-agonist umbrella, must not be exceeded. Beta-2-agonists are a group of drugs prescribed to treat asthma.

WADA also revealed it is adding “the concurrent use of multiple beta-2-agonists” to its monitoring list – the step before drugs are added to the banned list – “to establish patterns of use”, or in other words to check if athletes are combining legal doses of several asthma drugs to gain a performance benefit.

Another addition to the monitoring list is codeine, which may raise some eyebrows as it is a very common painkiller. Tramadol, a more controversial painkiller, remains on the monitoring list.

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