Caffeine could be included on The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of banned performance enhancing drugs later this year, depending on the outcome of an ongoing study.
Caffeine was added to WADA’s monitoring programme for 2017 so that experts could study whether athletes were using the substance “with the intent of enhancing performance.”
Russian Federal Micro-Biological Agency (FMBA) Head Vladimir Uiba recently told TASS. "If it eventually makes its way into the list of the prohibited substances, we will be forced to recommend everyone against drinking coffee as well as soft drinks containing caffeine."
Uiba makes it clear that the substance has not yet been approved for the list of banned substances, but theoretically it could happen later this year.
WADA’s study will continue until September, at which point the agency would issue a three-month notice that the substance was to be added to its prohibited list the following year.
To be added to the prohibited list, a substance must meet two of three criteria:
- It has the potential to enhance performance
- It poses a health risk to athletes
- It violates “the spirit of sport
It sounds like potentially grim news for pretty much every single competitive cyclist, but speaking to the Washington Post, WADA spokeswoman Maggie Durand seemed to imply that Uiba may have exaggerated with regards to what would be considered an acceptable level. “Generally speaking, WADA is extremely careful that normal food consumption does not interfere with anti-doping tests,” she said.
At this stage WADA can’t predict whether caffeine is likely to wind up back on the prohibited list, let alone what the threshold might be.
A previous ban on caffeine was removed in 2004. Prior to that, the legal limit was 12 microgram/ml in urine, said to be equivalent to around eight cups of espresso.
In 2010, then WADA president John Fahey suggested that caffeine could be re-introduced after an American footballer suffered an adverse reaction to prescribed sleeping pills which had apparently been taken to counter the effects of caffeine tablets taken before a game.