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WADA Suggests Nicotine Sanctions

Before I get into this post, I have to start by saying that I appreciate the World Anti-Doping Agency as a necessary part of modern sports. I think anybody who uses performance-enhancing substances should at least have a nasty asterisk on their career, and I think it’s reasonable to expect athletes to train honestly for the sport that they get paid to play. That said, judging from an article I just read in Guardian.co.uk’s TheSportBlog, I think the WADA needs to do some serious prioritizing.

According to this post, despite the fact that it was left off of the WADA’s yet-to-be-published list of prohibited substances for 2012, the agency is considering putting sanctions on nicotine due to its potential as a performance-enhancing drug. This is due to laboratory testing, which concluded that nicotine increased “vigilance and cognitive function” and reduced stress and body weight.

To the WADA, I’m going to pose what I think is a fairly salient question—didn’t you try this already with caffeine? Caffeine was on the WADA’s list of banned substances until 2004, when stakeholders realized that caffeine can make its way into athletes’ bloodstreams via social and diet consumption, rather than through pills and injections, thereby creating a lot of room for unnecessary asterisks.

They even went as far as to call caffeine ubiquitous, or ever-present, even though it’s only found in a scant handful of easily-avoidable food items. The only ones that really come to mind are coffee, tea, chocolate, and soda. How in the hell is a compound that only occurs in five or six things, some of which it doesn’t even naturally occur in, “ubiquitous?”

Consider this: if caffeine was re-allowed partially due to the potential for unnecessary positives caused by social consumption, then what makes nicotine any different? As we’ve learned from the numerous profiles of cigar smoking athletes in Cigar Aficionado, athletes, particularly ones with money (so a lot of them), tend to love their cigars, and they sure as hell aren’t smoking them to run faster. Couldn’t that cause a lot of unnecessary positives?

I’ve never once heard of a baseball player chewing a half pack of nicotine gum to get pumped up at bat. I’ve never seen an Olympic hurdler swallow a can of dip in order to get the edge over his or her competition. As far as I know, athletes just don’t use nicotine that way. So why the hell would the WADA put guys like Darren Clarke, who took home the Claret Jug earlier this year and who happens to smoke a boatload of cigars, at risk of having their careers tarnished and their abilities questioned?

Maybe this is just ignorance on my part, but I think the WADA has bigger fish to fry than nicotine, or caffeine for that matter. Hopefully the movement to ban nicotine will be as futile as the repeated efforts since 2004 to re-ban caffeine, because as far as I’m concerned, this seems like just as big of a waste of time.