Scientist: Shake-Up in List of Banned Drugs Needed
By Kevin Fylan
MADRID (Reuters) - Insulin is one of a number of drugs that should be removed from the list of banned substances as part of a more scientific approach to the anti-doping battle, a member of the IOC's medical commission said Thursday.
Dr Harm Kuipers told a conference in Madrid that only substances that could be shown both to enhance performance and to produce adverse effects in athletes' health should be prohibited.
He said that caffeine, narcotics such as heroin and morphine, glucocorticoids, pseudo ephedrine and cannabis were all likely to be removed when the World Anti-Doping Agency produces a revised list of banned substances next year.
He also warned that some substances currently prohibited, including insulin and possibly even human growth hormone (hGH), did not help performance but were being using by some athletes simply because they were on the banned list.
He argued that insulin should therefore be removed and said that further study was needed on hGH, although he stressed that it should stay on the list for the time being.
"Rule makers forget that everything on the list, especially the new list which will be based on scientific evidence, must be performance enhancing," Kuipers said on the opening day of the Sport and Drugs in the 21st Century conference in Madrid.
"In the case of insulin there are serious side effects but no performance enhancement. Insulin should not be on the list.
"The motivation for adding insulin to the list of banned substances was the assumption that insulin injections could act as recovery enhancing means. However, there is no scientific basis for this assumption.
"Just the fact that insulin is on the list may encourage people to use it because of the assumed recovery-enhancing properties.
"One of the great risks of insulin injections is severe hypoglycaemia with coma and potential brain damage. The risk is greater in athletes because athletes have an increased insulin action."
On the issue of human growth hormone, Kuipers added: "It should stay on the list for now but we need more research on its effects.
"Although hGH appears to be used by several athletes, no study has shown any enhancing effect in any sport in healthy persons.
"Still they are widely used, probably because they are on the list and because its use cannot be detected yet."
Diuretics could also be removed as new techniques of detection meant they were much less effective in masking drug-taking.
Kuipers, who was a world champion in speed skating in 1975, said that beta agonists, or reliever inhalers, may be removed from the banned list as they were useful to athletes in winter sports and did not enhance performance.
"Skaters do often cough and wheeze after performing," he said. "Cold, dry air can cause air blockage and with normal use there are few side effects."
He said inhalers used with anabolic agents would remain on the banned list, however.
There was no question of removing such drugs as anabolic steroids, blood boosters like EPO and NESP and stimulants like cocaine, he said.
It was also important to ban gene doping, which many fear will be used in the future to enhance performance, even though it could not yet be detected.
"It's doping and it's forbidden," he said. "We need to stress that."
The new WADA list will be adopted in March 2003 and be in full force for the Olympics in Athens the following year.
"There's going to have to be a lot of education of athletes and coaches," Kuipers said. "We also need to continue testing out of competition.
"Doping should be considered as everything that is performance enhancing and dangerous to health. All substances not meeting those criteria do not belong on the list, in my opinion.
"I am convinced that doing this will contribute to a sport in which doping is very small and well controlled."