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U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

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What Athletes Need to Know About COVID-19 Treatments and
Anti-Doping

Originally released April 3, 2020
Updated June 16, 2020

The virus associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is more specifically known as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is possible that some athletes will contract COVID-19 and will require medication and support during the infection. In general, when athletes receive a doctor or pharmacist’s recommendation or prescription to help manage symptoms, they should check the prohibited status of the product in sport.

While it’s good for athletes to remain mindful of anti-doping rules when receiving treatment, the priority should always be that athletes receive the best and most timely care in emergency situations. Athletes should never reject or postpone treatment due to anti-doping rules; instead, they should coordinate with USADA after emergency treatment to secure a retroactive Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).

Below, you can find the anti-doping status and related information about Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved and experimental medications being used for the treatment of COVID-19 symptoms. There is still a lot of controversy about how the virus functions, and what medications are effective versus harmful.* 

hands of person in pharmacy holding multiple blister packs of medication.Over-the-counter medications

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and physicians may recommend various over-the-counter products, such as the permitted medications acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen, to treat symptoms. 

Vaccines

Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19, but there are vaccines undergoing human clinical trials. The World Health Organization (WHO) is also coordinating further efforts to develop or repurpose existing vaccines.

Regarding anti-doping, there are no vaccinations on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List, making it unlikely that a vaccine for this virus would become prohibited in sport.

Asthma medications

Inhaler on table.Asthma is one of the chronic conditions that appears to cause a person with COVID-19 to experience more severe symptoms. Athletes diagnosed with asthma should be mindful of the rules around administration of common medications and ingredients used to treat asthma. Certain inhalers are permitted, while others are prohibited at all time. Make sure to check the status of your inhaler on www.GlobalDRO.com and read more on inhaled medications.

Medications in Clinical Trials

The following substances are being evaluated for effectiveness in the treatment of COVID-19. Clinical trials are underway worldwide to determine the safety and their possible benefits.

  • Antiviral drug combinations, such as Remdesivir and Kaletra (lopinavir, ritonavir),
  • Dexamethasone (for use in the hospital only to treat severe cases)
  • Immunosuppressant/antibiotics (azithromycin)
  • Convalescent plasma
  • Anti-malaria drugs (hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine)

Anti-malaria drugs (hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine) so far have not shown any benefit in treating COVID-19.

As always, athletes should check GlobalDRO.com or contact drugreference@USADA.org for the status of medications or treatment methods, or if enrolling into a clinical trial. If any medication is delivered by IV infusion, a TUE may be needed if the infusion is received outside of the hospital.

Alternative Medicines and Dietary Supplements

The FDA has issued a consumer warning about fraudulent coronavirus tests, vaccines, and treatments.  According to the FDA, fraudulent COVID-19 products can come in many varieties, including dietary supplements and other foods, as well as products claiming to be tests, drugs, medical devices, or vaccines. As always, USADA recommends that athletes who choose to use dietary supplements only use NSF Certified for Sport products to reduce their risk.

More questions?

For questions about the anti-doping status of specific products, substances, and methods, contact USADA’s Drug Reference Line at drugreference@usada.org or call (719) 785-2000, option 2.

* USADA is providing this content for informational purposes only and does not recommend the use of any medication.

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