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The AMA National series is coming to your town, and you are eager to put that brand-new AMA Pro license to use. But, do you know that your AMA Pro racing career could end before it even starts if you are the lucky random winner of a free WADA/USADA drug test? You say that you aren’t worried because you have never taken a performance-enhancing drug in your life. You are clean. Clean as a whistle.
Or are you? Have you ever woken up on the morning of a race with a bad cold and pulled a few Sudafed tablets out of the medicine cabinet to clear your head. Or maybe you used a nasal spray to clear your stuffy nose. Well, if that’s you, you could fail the AMA-mandated drug test and be banned from racing for up to four years. Just ask James Stewart or Jake Moss.
THE RULES APPLY TO ALL (EVEN AMATEUR) RACERS
Very few AMA Pros or potential AMA Pros realize that they can be drug tested at any AMA National or Supercross. This is a good thing for the sport, even if it was a bad thing for James Stewart. You need to be a lot more diligent than Bubba was, because they can call your number at any race—and if they do, you don’t want to trigger a positive doping test.
Just because you hate dopers and would never dream of taking EPO or anything of the sort doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily a clean athlete in the eyes of the doping police. The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of prohibited substances and methods goes on for 10 full pages—that’s a lot of stuff that could get you in trouble! Most of the items on the list are hard to pronounce, and there’s no list of what products they’re found in.
The MXA wrecking crew wants to help you navigate through your medicine cabinet to stop you from becoming the headline news.
A MEDICINE CABINET FULL OF POSITIVES
Ever take a couple Aleve-D pills for a bad sinus headache? You could test positive. Ever pick up an over-the-counter Benzedrex inhaler to clear out your sinuses? That’s another way to test positive. In fact, something as harmless as a Vicks VapoInhaler will get you busted thanks to its ingredient Levmetamfetamine, which is also found in a number of similar products.
Okay, if most of the nasal inhalers can’t be used, what can a racer take if he’s all stuffed up? Try putting a piece of cotton up each nostril with a drop of eucalyptus oil on it. That will open up your sinuses in no time flat!
Do you have allergies? Ever use Zyrtec-D Once-a-Day for your symptoms? You might want to think again. In fact, this last example happened to Swedish goalie Nicklas Backstrom at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Backstrom missed the gold-medal game due to the fact that his urine test showed 190 micrograms-per-milliliter concentration of Pseudoephedrine. The WADA limit is 150 micrograms.
If all of this isn’t enough to give you a headache (at least ibuprofen isn’t on the banned list), different formulations of the same brand will have different ingredients. Take the brand Mucinex as an example. Mucinex Sinus-Max will give you nothing to worry about, but Mucinex D could result in a competition ban. Even though they both address sinus pressure, congestion and pain, the former contains Phenylephrine while the latter contains Pseudoephedrine.
The good news is that Phenylephrine was recently removed from the banned substance list. This opens the door to many more cold medications, such as Sudafed PE and DayQuil Cold & Flu, that won’t get you into trouble with the drug police. Caffeine, over a certain level, also used to be on the banned list, but thankfully it, too, has been removed.
All right, enough about the cold and sinus medications. How about just some simple products from the local Vitamin Shoppe or GNC that boost recovery and increase energy? When a product’s label claims hyper-hydration, enhanced endurance and muscle-building potential, it sounds great. And, these are just a few of the performance claims made by supplements containing Glycerol Monostearate (GSM on some labels). It’s easy to imagine a racer perusing the shelves and deciding to give one of these products a try, but that would be a huge mistake, because Glycerol is on the banned list.
How about those bottles with the shiny logos that claim to improve lean muscle mass and boost your immunity levels? They could contains DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) and will get you in a load of trouble, just ask Tour de France cyclist Tyler Hamilton.
THERAPEUTIC USE EXEMPTION
Those athletes who have a documented medical condition requiring the use of a prohibited substance or method must request a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) from USADA or WADA. The caveat is that, unless it’s an emergency situation, a TUE has to be applied for well before a drug test takes place. You cannot claim it retroactively as James Stewart wanted to do. So, those on Ritalin or Adderall for ADHD, insulin for diabetes or those who get cortisone shots for their bad knees need to be sure that their paperwork is in order.
Since you’re responsible for what goes into your body, even if it got there unknowingly, it behooves you to take a very close look at any supplements you are using. With little to no regulation in the multi-billion dollar supplement market, many studies have shown that not everything on the ingredient list is in the products. Sometimes substances are left off the list on the bottle, and sometimes unwanted foreign ingredients are accidentally included in the mix.
The tainted-supplement excuse has been used all too often when an athlete tests positive, but there are also plenty of cases that show that it has merit. Many supplement brands use a single manufacturer for various categories of supplements mixed at the same facility. For example, protein powder and multi-vitamins could be processed on the same equipment as a weight-loss drug or a Mega-Muscle product using DHEA. The potential to consume something unexpected due to cross-contamination is a justifiable worry. Do your homework on the brands you’re using and make sure they can guarantee their products are made in a facility that does not use any WADA-banned products.
It’s not just supplements that can get you in trouble with contamination. Even a beef steak or pork loin from a number of foreign countries could make you test positive for clenbuterol, a muscle-building compound given to animals. This is so well-documented, and such a problem, that WADA has even recommended avoiding eating meat in certain countries for fear of contamination.
HOW TO NOT BE THE FOOL
So, how do you avoid finding your name on a USADA/WADA press release announcing their latest catch? If you are a racer who aspires to be an AMA Pro or you are one already, educate yourself on what you can and can’t take. Take a hard look at any and all supplements that you take, and make sure that the manufacturer can back the quality of its product with guarantees that it comes from facilities free of any WADA-banned substances. And, rest assured, those pill bottles with shiny, lure-like hologram labels promising “youthfulness, shredded muscles and a leaner body” will get you busted.
USADA (www.usada.org) has a great resource called Global Drug Resource Online (DRO) that is a quick-reference database with many prescription and over-the-counter medications that shows whether they’re banned or not.
Just because your chances of ever being asked to supply a WADA official with a cup of urine are quite slim, don’t be lax about what’s going into your body. The sport idolizes and looks up to Pro-level racers. We also hold them to a high degree of accountability. If you want to be like them, stay clean.