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re herbs as banned substances

This discussion raises an interesting and thorny issue that human 
athletes also have to cope with.  It is difficult to say where to 
draw a line between a food stuff and a pharmocologic agent.  It is 
probably most important to remember that naturally occurring, as in 
herbs, does not mean the ingredient is not a drug.  Such 
ingredients for humans include caffeine containing products such as 
guarana, coffee or tea, or "energy" supplements such as Ma Huang or 
ephedrines.  Many of these "natural" ingredients will result in 
positive drug tests by the IOC.  Caffeine is allowed in low amounts 
but you will be suspended if caught with amounts indicative of >5 
cups of coffee.  Why the suspension and possible end of someone's 
competitive career?  Because these substances are proven to  
enhance performance, often by exerting a stimulant effect. 
Furthermore, they are not ingredients essential to life or widespread 
in the typical diet.  

Of course, we do manipulate food and fluid intake, and in horses load 
them with electrolytes in amounts they would never see in nature, to 
extend their ability to exerice for prolonged periods in adverse 
conditions.  Given the impossibility of testing for all these 
substances it becomes incumbent upon the 
person to act according to the rules of the organization and of 
conscience.  We should remember, though, that arsinic is contained in 
apple seeds, and digitalis is found in the garden.  Natural does not 
always mean ethical or advisable.

Beth Glace, MS
Sports Nutritionist
Lenox Hill Hospital

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