- Until 2004 caffeine was on the prohibited list of substances for athletes by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
- The World Anti-Doping Agency is considering another ban on caffeine because of increasing use by athletes in an attempt to increase their performance.
- If caffeine is banned in high levels, eight cups of coffee may cause an athlete to test positive and be banned from competition.
Until January of the year 2004, the World Anti-Doping Agency classified caffeine as a prohibited substance, but at this time caffeine was taken off the prohibited list for the agency and instead transferred over to the monitoring program. Caffeine has never been banned completely, and this is not feasible due to the fact that caffeine is in a large number and variety of food and drinks. A total ban would cause many athletes to test positive for doping simply for drinking a soda or having a cup of coffee, or even eating chocolate, which has natural amounts of caffeine in it. Even before January 2004, when caffeine was on a list of banned substances, the level of the drug had to be extremely high for it to be considered doping, the equivalent of eight cups of coffee or more right before the event. Because caffeine has been placed on the monitoring list, the athletes competing can use this substance in any amount, but a ban is being considered again because monitoring has shown that after the ban was lifted caffeine use in excessive levels is on the rise again in sports and competitions, especially weight lifting and cycling.
One Irish cycling competitor in the Tour de France in the late eighties and early nineties admitted to using caffeine suppositories, and there has been talk of American and Australian cyclists using this same method during Olympic games. Caffeine can be a performance enhancer, and in large doses may give an athlete an edge and unfair advantage over those who do not use this substance. This is not as big of a deal in short term sports, such as sprinting, as it is in endurance competitions like cycling, triathlons, and Iron man contests. The aim of the World Anti-Doping Agency is to allow for a fair playing field in competitions, without substances and supplements giving an athlete an advantage that is unfair. Once caffeine was removed from the list of banned substances, the use of this drug has increased significantly. Due to this the agency is planning on the implementation of a new ban on caffeine, but once again small amounts will not usually cause an athlete to test positive for doping during a drug test.
There may be additional factors to consider as well though, and not just the total caffeine or coffee intake. Usually caffeine is metabolized quickly, but because every athlete has their own unique metabolic rate the time it takes for this substance to leave the system can vary widely. There have been unusual cases where one cup of coffee, or between three hundred and fifty and five hundred milligrams of caffeine, have caused a drug test to come up positive. For athletes, if there is a ban in place the best option is to limit the intake of caffeine as much as possible. Try to avoid coffee and energy drinks, which can contain large amounts of caffeine. Also keep a close eye on the ingredients of any foods, nutritional or herbal supplements, and over the counter medications. Many of these may have caffeine added. Excedrin has caffeine as an active ingredient, and so do many other headache or pain remedies. Herbal supplements may contain caffeine to help fight weight gain or boost energy levels. Because athletes want better performance, high levels of caffeine have been used frequently in the past, and are still being used currently, to enhance performance and help endurance. If the World Anti-Doping Agency puts the caffeine ban back in place, and lists this substance as prohibited in high levels, all athletes will benefit. The point of competition is to compete fairly, and caffeine can help skew the results and give athletes a decided advantage which is not fair or honest.