Blog: Assisting athletes managing diabetes and the anti-doping testing process

17 August 2012

To further educate athletes who are insulin-dependent diabetics, as well as take a look at the possible detrimental health effects of doping with insulin, ASADA has put together some interesting facts.

Insulin has been prohibited since the 1998 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Nagano, Japan, after athletes were caught using insulin for its anabolic and anti-catabolic effects. Indeed, insulin can give you unexpected increases in strength and performance by elevating muscle glycogen stores and reducing protein consumption.

However, when insulin is used as a doping agent there can be serious side effects for athletes, which include hypoglycaemia which may lead to unconsciousness, permanent brain damage or even death.

Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee (ASDMAC) Chair, Prof Ken Fitch said that one in every 1500 elite athletes have diabetes.

A leading sports medicine professional, Prof Fitch is Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia’s School of Sports Science, Exercise and Health as well as chair of the International Olympic Committee’s Therapeutic Use Exemption Committee.

Prof Fitch said while they appear to be at the peak of health, athletes performing at the elite level may be carefully managing type 1 or type 2 diabetes as part of their training routine.

“As part of that management, it is critical that these athletes apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) as soon they become involved in sport at the national or international level,” Prof Fitch said.

A TUE ensures an athlete who is taking insulin for medical reasons, does not receive an anti-doping rule violation if ASADA conducts a test and a positive result for insulin is returned.

“Using written evidence from a doctor documenting an athlete’s medical history, getting a TUE is a straight-forward procedure,” Prof Fitch said.

“A TUE lasts for five years before an athlete needs to apply for a new one.”

It’s also important for athletes to note that today’s technologically advanced laboratories can distinguish between synthetic insulin administered through injections and endogenous insulin produced by the human body.

More information and Therapeutic Use Exemption forms can be found on the ASDMAC website at http://www.asdmac.gov.au/TUE.html or by contacting ASADA on 1300 027 232.