Inadvertent Doping

Majority of athletes never consider using prohibited substance to win. However, athletes are still under the risk of being tested positive in drug tests thus face subsequent doping violations and sanctions if they do not actively avoid prohibited substances. The paragraphs below highlight the possible causes of inadvertent doping and ways to avoid the problem.

What is Inadvertent Doping? What are the possible causes?
Inadvertent doping occurs when the athlete failed in a drug test because he/she unintentionally takes in the prohibited substances. This might happen when the athlete has been:

1. Using medication to treat illness / injury -
It is particularly dangerous if the doctor who prescribes the medicine is not informed that the patient is an athlete who needs to avoid prohibited substances. Certain over-the-counter medicine (e.g. medicine for cough and cold) very often contains prohibited substances. Not only medicine taken orally (pills and syrup) may lead to positive drug test, lotion for external use, as well as inhaler may also include prohibited substances. Certain Chinese herbal medicine, especially those with unknown chemical composition, is also possible cause for unintentional doping.
2. Consuming supplements -
Supplements are generally not licensed in the same way as licensed pharmaceutical products. Athletes may risk the possibility that they may fail to identify the supplement which contains a prohibited substance due to contamination or inaccurate labeling.
3.Passively inhaling drug smoke -
e.g. second-hand marijuana smoke
4. Ingesting certain food substances -
Examples of food that can lead to positive drug test include: cake and bread containing poppy seeds; poultry, pork and pig organs contaminated with steroids or clenbuterol as an additive to animal feed.

What are the results of inadvertent doping?
Under the World Anti-Doping Code, ignorance is not an excuse, athletes are responsible for checking the status of all medication and substances they use.

Athletes who have unintentionally taken a prohibited substance may still face sanctions. A tedious procedure to submit evidences for proving the unintentional mistake of taking in prohibited substances will be required before escaping from / reduction in sanction.
Even though the athlete can prove that he / she has used the prohibited substance unintentionally, competition results will be automatically removed if the drug test was conducted in-competition.
Furthermore, a positive drug test record will stay in his / her file and repeated violations of any anti-doping rules will lead to increase in sanction.

What can I do to avoid inadvertent doping?
It is very important to always be alert and take all necessary precautions to protect yourself against inadvertent doping. Here are some useful tips:

When seeing a doctor…
- Tell him/her that you are an athlete subject to doping control; and
- Show him/her the CURRENT prohibited list for substances and methods that you must not be prescribed with.


Before taking any medicine…
- Ask a doctor / pharmacist or use DruginSport
  ( to check prohibited status of the medicine;
- Check different products of the same brand separately as they may
  contain different ingredients; and
- For medicine purchased outside of Hong Kong, check the prohibited
  status by its ingredient(s) instead of the brand name.


Use supplement with caution…
- Consult your team doctors or sport nutritionists for choice of
  supplements; and
- Order supplements only from reputable sources; and
- Be aware of the potential risk of herbal substances.


Beware of food contamination…
- Avoid eating cattle and pig offal (e.g., livers, lungs and kidneys) where
  steroids and clenbuterol tend to accumulate; and
- Buy meats and food from reputable stores or restaurants.


Never use prohibited substances without PRIOR approval…
- In the absence of other alternatives, if you have to use prohibited
  substances for medical reasons, prior approval must be obtained through
  the Therapeutic Use Exemption process.


To be on the safe side…
- If you cannot find prohibited information of a substance or medication,
  you should never assume it is safe to use.

- Visit Advisory Notes regularly for tips and updates that can help you to
  avoid inadvertent doping.