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U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

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How Athletes Can Safely Use Cold and Flu Products

Unfortunately, there are many popular over-the-counter products used for everyday ailments that can cause a positive test if used in-competition. More specifically, many cold and flu medications and inhalers contain stimulants that are prohibited in-competition.

Keep reading to learn how athletes subject to anti-doping rules can safely use cold and flu products.

Look Out for Common Prohibited Ingredients

Ingredients to avoid using if you are competing or getting close to a competition include:

  • Pseudoephedrine, which opens airways by reducing swelling and counteracts drowsiness caused by anti-histamines in combination products. These products are sold behind-the-counter at the pharmacy.
  • Levomethamphetamine or propylhexedrine, found in nasal inhalants.
  • Epinephrine, which is available as a metered dose inhaler or tablets sold to clear congestion in the lungs, or for relief from asthma.

These products will often have a “D” in the name or be marketed as the non-drowsy, or the “daytime” version of a medication.

Search Products on Global DRO

global dro logoWhen choosing a cold, flu, or allergy product, make sure to search for them on Global DRO. However, please keep in mind that not all brands of cold and flu products are added to Global DRO.

This is because there are so many new products every year, sometimes with the same name but different ingredients, making it very difficult to ensure that an athlete will select the exact version they are using from the Global DRO search results. Similarly, many products made by different companies have identical names but different ingredients. For example, there are multiple companies that sell a product called “Severe Cold and Cough” but with different ingredients. Athletes have to be very careful to select the brand that exactly matches their product.

Search Ingredients on Global DRO

If an exact match for an over-the-counter medication isn’t listed on Global DRO, the best thing to do is find the “Drug Facts” panel on the medication and search for each “Active ingredient.” Users do not have to search for the inactive ingredients, which are usually water, glycerol, colors, or flavorings. By searching for each active ingredient, you will be better able to get the correct anti-doping status of your medication.

Ask the Experts

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

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