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Did you know that the popular Guarana boost bar is a banned substance?

DOPING is cheating and the AAI is committed to a drugs-free sport.This is the slogan on all our athletic programmes, entry forms, and any correspondence clubs received from our AAI head office in Dublin. This topic on doping was very much highlighted on The Late Late Show on Friday night, when Irish middle distance runner, Geraldine Hendricker appeared with Pat Kenny to tell her side of the story and indeed it was a very very interesting one

One of the main points she drew on was that she was not in a financial position to appeal her ban to the International Appeals Board, to clear her name. Another point she highlighted was that if she as an athlete had to get all her food supplements tested, it would cost her in the region of ?600 to test a supplement worth ?30.

Geraldine was banned from competition for two years, following confirmation that she tested positive for banned substances, on February 10, 2003, an out of competition dope test was conducted on Hendricker. The sample provided was tested in the 10c accredited laboratory in Kings College, London. The lab reported that the sample contained 19-norandrosterone, a metabolite of a banned substance. The B sample when tested returned the same result.

Apparently, Geraldine requested that dietary supplements, which she claimed were part of her diet be analysed. Athletics Ireland commissioned the German Sports Institute in Cologne to conduct an analysis of these supplements and the lab reported the supplements contained an anabolic andrugeric steroid, which could if taken, lead to a positive test for norandrosterone. She then requested an oral hearing, with the disciplinary committee, and Athletics Ireland, and Geraldine were legally represented but to no avail and the two-year ban was imposed.

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Hendricker told Pat Kenny that she had ingested supplements which were not labelled as containing a banned substance.

After Geraldine left the stage, John Treacy, Chief Executive of the Irish Sports Council, and a member of the International doping agency made their comments.

Treacy advised athletes not to take any supplements and said the responsibility is on individual athletes to ensure whatever dietary supplements they take are (clean) if they choose to take them. The questions that really arise from this programme, is “do we, as athletes, know what a banned substance is?”

Most athletes will probably answer no to this question. They might add that all they take is a cod liver oil tablet a day, which is very common among all sports people, but what is in a cod liver oil tablet we really don’t know. In 2003 the boost ‘Guarana’ bar, which is on shelves of most shops, was listed as a banned substance. Athletes and indeed all sports people should be aware of the list of banned substances for their sport.

I would advise athletes to log on to, which is a very informative site, but the information on it is very complex and is a bit mind boggling. Another question commonly asked is “who can be tested?”.

In athletics any athlete from under-16 upwards, (in athletics an under-16 could be a 14-year-old) who competes in senior competition, may be tested in competition. Athletes are selected for dope testing at random, so the element of fair play is there.

The doping officer present on the day, will inform AAI, prior to the event that they will test the winner, the person wearing no 91 and the person that finished 16th in the race. After the race the following procedures are adopted:

1. The athlete selected for dope testing is informed in writing, and the doping officer will stay with the athlete until the sample is given, in the case of a minor a parent/guardioan can be present.

2. The paper work is done and the doping officer, only will remain with the athlete while he/she is supplying the sample. The sample is then divided into two sterile containers, thus sample A and sample B.

3. The athlete is then asked if she/he is happy with the process and if everything is ok by the athlete the samples are sealed in his/her presence.

4. The sample is sent for testing and the result returned to the NGB (national governing body — in our case, the AAI). Its the NGB’s duty to inform the athlete of the result. In Hendricker’s case, she claims it was leaked to the press.

Doping is a very serious offence, and in athletics the price is high if found guilty and rightly so, but athletes do need food supplements, from time to time, especially iron, most doctors now have a list of banned substances and will know what to prescribe.

It’s hard to judge Geraldine Hendricker’s case, but it did help to highlight the plight our top athletes go through, not alone with their training,but also with their diet.