Athlete Advisory: IV infusions and injections

12 April 2016

Receiving intravenous (IV) infusions and injections outside of clinical settings is risky with possible consequences to your health and sporting career.

Following a global trend, a number of businesses offering IV drip services have opened their doors in Australia. These businesses claim to assist in the recovery of a range of ailments (for example hangovers) by offering clients vitamin drips and injections. These claims have raised concerns in the medical community with complaints being lodged with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Pharmacy Board of Australia.

The health risks are real with the NSW Department of Health investigating an incident where a client was hospitalised after receiving an intravenous infusion at one of these businesses in Sydney.

If you are an athlete subject to anti-doping rules, you should know that intravenous infusions may get you banned from sport for a period of up to four years. Even if the substance in the infusion is permitted in sport, the method of administration is prohibited. Intravenous infusions and/or injections of more than 50 mL (about 3 to 4 tablespoons) per six-hour period are prohibited at all times, except for those legitimately received in the course of hospital admissions, surgical procedures or clinical investigations.

According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), some athletes could use IV infusions to increase their plasma volume levels, mask the use of a prohibited substance, and/or distort the values of their Athlete Biological Passport. In sports with weight classifications, athletes may be encouraged to undertake significant, accelerated weight loss to qualify for a competition and then use IV infusion to rapidly rehydrate. This practise is risky to athlete health and safety.

A recent case run by ASADA in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) involved the attempted use of an intravenous drip by an athlete. The athlete claimed he was not aware IV drips were a prohibited method in sport. CAS rejected the athlete’s defence noting he had received considerable education through ASADA and his sport. Failing to pay attention to his anti-doping education was no excuse in the eyes of CAS. The athlete received a lengthy ban from sport for his breach of the anti-doping rules.

As an athlete it is your responsibility to be aware of which substances and methods are prohibited in sport. Ignorance is not an excuse.

You can read WADA’s medical information on IV infusions for further details.