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Original articles  PHARMACOLOGY 

The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2003 March;43(1):111-8

Copyright © 2009 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Over-the-counter drug use amongst athletes and non-athletes

Chester N. 1, Reilly T. 1, Mottram D. R. 2

1 School of Sport and Exercise Sciences Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK 2 School of Pharmacy and Chemistry Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK


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Aim. ­Many ­over-the-­counter (OTC) ­drugs ­used in the symp­to­matic ­relief of ­upper res­pir­a­tory ­tract (URT) con­di­tions are ­banned by ­sports gov­erning ­bodies. It ­would ­appear there­fore ­that ath­letes are ­being pen­al­ised for prac­tising con­ven­tional phar­mac­o­log­ical ­methods in the man­age­ment of ­common ail­ments. The aim was to iden­tify any dif­fer­ences ­between ath­letes and non-ath­letes and ­amongst ath­letic ­groups, ­with ­respect to the prev­a­lence of URT con­di­tions and the use of OTC ­drugs to ­treat ­such con­di­tions.
­Methods. Ques­tion­naires ­were dis­trib­uted at ­domestic and inter­na­tional ath­letics meet­ings and at uni­ver­sity lec­tures and tuto­rials. Respon­dents (n=401) rep­re­sented ­both ­track and ­field ath­letes (n=199) and non-ath­letes (n=202).
­Results. No dif­fer­ences ­were ­found ­between ath­letes and non-ath­letes and ­between ­elite and non-­elite ath­letes in ­terms of the fre­quency of epi­sodes of URT con­di­tions ­reported in the pre­vious ­year. A ­higher pro­por­tion of ­elite, as ­opposed to non-­elite ath­letes did not ­take OTC med­i­cines (p=0.028) and of ­those ­that did ­take OTC med­i­cines a ­higher pro­por­tion of ­elite ath­letes (68%) as ­opposed to non-­elite (32%) ­took ­those not con­taining sym­pa­thom­i­metics, ­banned by the Inter­na­tional ­Olympic Com­mittee (IOC). Ath­letes ­were ­found to ­have ­greater knowl­edge of IOC ­banned OTC ­drugs (p=0.002) and ­within ­this ­group, ­elite ath­letes ­were ­most knowl­edge­able (p=0.0003). ­Although ­most respon­dents (81%) ­believed ­that OTC ­drugs ­should not be pro­hib­ited in ­sport, ath­letes ­made up the ­greatest pro­por­tion in sup­port of pro­hi­bi­tion (23.5% as ­opposed to 14.4% of non-ath­letes) ­with ­elite as ­opposed to non-­elite ­most in ­favour (p=0.0181).
Con­clu­sion. ­These ­results sug­gest ­that URT con­di­tions are no ­more prev­a­lent ­between ath­letes and non-ath­letes or ­between endu­rance and ­power ath­letes. Ath­letes com­peting at the ­highest ­level ­tended to ­avoid OTC med­i­cines or ­those con­taining IOC ­banned ­drugs and ­were ­most knowl­edge­able in ­terms of ­banned OTC ­drugs and ­most in ­favour of ­their pro­hi­bi­tion sug­gesting ­that the con­trol mech­a­nisms in ­place are ­only ­reaching ­elite ath­letes.

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