Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Friday, December 1, 2017

The 2018 Sport Exchange Summit: Don't Miss It.

By Gene Willis, Director of Marketing

Last year, Drug Free Sport hosted it’s first-ever industry conference – The Sport Exchange Summit, Powered by Drug Free Sport. By all accounts, it was a success in focusing on the needs, conversations, and happenings for those that are “the team behind the team”.

Many of the attendees visiting Kansas City, MO represented groups that are in daily contact with athletes on all levels: certified athletic trainers, sports psychologists, strength and conditioning coaches, education leaders, and sport coaches. Also present were professional league office officials, international organizers of sport, post-sport career professionals, and students looking to learn about their future career paths. 


“The Sport Exchange Summit was one of the finest collections of expert presentations on a multitude of areas affecting health and wellness of athletes.  The multidisciplinary approach to the meeting presents many perspectives and broadens awareness of the many issues that must be considered in today’s world of sport.”

Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine
Iowa State University


In 2018, we will build from this great foundation to add new topics that affect sport professionals internationally. On June 11 and 12 in Kansas City, these will include:

With our industry expertise as the leader in sport drug testing and wellness education, you’ll also hear about the latest developments in Dietary Supplements, Prescription Stimulants in Sport: Use, Misuse, and Abuse, and Marijuana and Sport: An Update on Legalization and Performance

We are happy to confirm our two keynote speakers, dynamic groundbreakers in sport:
  • Katie Sowers is the San Francisco 49ers' Seasonal Offensive Assistant Coach - only the second woman to coach in the NFL and the first LGBT person to serve as an NFL coach. She'll speak about her experience of working in a male-dominated sport and her focus on excellence.
  • Billy Bean is the Vice President and Special Assistant to the Commissioner for Major League Baseball (MLB). He is the only living MLB player to disclose that he is gay. His keynote speech will address his work on MLB's Diversity & Inclusion Committee, his career, and his life journey. 

“I was honored to present at the Sport Exchange Summit, powered by Drug Free Sport, in 2016. This gathering represents a multi-disciplined approach to the overall health and well-being of athletes at all levels of sport. The excellent presentations and topics surely enhances the education and knowledge of all attendees. What a wonderful professional experience; Drug Free Sport provides a great opportunity for all involved!”

Chris Carr, Ph.D., HSPP, CC-AASP
Sport & Performance Psychologist
St. Vincent Sports Performance


For many, this conference is a great chance to interact with industry leaders, to expand your network, and to grow your career. Continuing education hours are awarded for several certified industries, including:
  • Sports Physicians (CMEs)
  •           BOC Certified Athletic Trainers
  •           Strength and Conditioning coaches (NSCA and CSCCa)
  •          Sport Dietitians (CDR)
  •          Sport Psychologists (APA).

Being located in the center of the United States, the conference is accessible to all and affordable. Register by February 28, 2018 for the early-bird price of $349. Better yet, register by the end of December and you’re entered to win a Garmin VivoSmart HR+ fitness tracker!

Register today. Discuss the upcoming event online with the hashtag #SESummit18.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Regulatory Limits of Hemp and CBD Products for Drug Tested Athletes

Contributed by Guest Blogger Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS


Recently, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) pulled cannabidiol (CBD) from the 2018 Prohibited Substance List. Previously, it was illegal for Olympic athletes to use hemp products and isolates from hemp-like CBDs (1).  Literally within 48 hours of WADA releasing the news of CBD’s new permissible status, some of the bigger players in the CBD supplement space began to target drug-tested athletes.  Many of these companies make claims that some of their CBD extracts are 100% THC-free, and in compliance with WADA testing standards for THC. Yet, studies show significant inaccuracies on label claims including the actual amount of CBD found in products, and the presence of THC (2,3).

We have no credible third-party certifying agencies that can currently ensure that every batch of a CBD extract is truly THC-free.  Skip lot testing (as often used for dietary supplements) on THC levels in CBD products is not going to be good enough for drug-tested athletes, and the folks doing the testing will have to be free of any conflicts of interest with the hemp industry. 

There are no federal guidelines that determine label claim qualifications for products promoted as being “THC free.”  One company making THC claims states that they are in compliance with WADA’s “strict testing regulations” for THC by not exceeding 0.3% THC in the product. 

Like caffeine, not everyone metabolizes cannabinoids the same (4).  Even in small amounts, increased frequency of use may well accumulate THC to the point of detection by a drug test. Athletes who are drawn to CBDs as an intervention for pain, concussions, sleep, immune health, etc., must proceed with caution. 

Some professional sports still consider CBD a prohibited substance. While most don’t specifically test for CBD, they do not fund or supply any hemp-based products to athletes, due to the lack of credible assurances or third-party verification that each batch of the product is truly THC-free.
Athletes are advised extreme caution when considering these unregulated and untested CBD products.

1. Summary of Major Modifications and Explanatory Notes – 2018 WADA Prohibited List

2. Bonn-Miller, MO, Mallory JE Loflin, Brian F Thomas, et al. “Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online.” JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709.

3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Warning Letters and Test Results for Cannabidiol-Related Products.” 2015-2017. https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm484109.htm. Updated Nov 2, 2017.

4. Hawks, Richard L. The analysis of cannabinoids in biological fluids. Vol. 42. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1982.

Dave Ellis is a Veteran Sports RD who specializes in food and supplement security for drug tested athletes. His full bio and professional work can be found at daveellisbio.com. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Anti-Doping Research: A Conversation with the Partnership for Clean Competition.

At Drug Free Sport, we believe that a balanced approach to sports drug testing and anti-doping involves testing and education. However, there are several elements that factor into the development of such testing and education, like proper research. With scientific advancements happening both for doping and anti-doping efforts, it’s important to be on top of developments to protect the integrity of sport. 

We recently exchanged with Jenna Celmer at the Partnership for Clean Competition about their work toward improving the detection of performance-enhancing drugs. Our organizations share the spirit of fair and safe sport. It was a great conversation that we’re proud to share with you. 

How did the Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC) come to be? 

Back in 2008, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the United States Olympic Committee, and the United States Anti-Doping Agency came together to discuss how to better deter and detect performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and encourage a culture of clean sport.
These organizations understood that what the anti-doping movement needed was the collaboration and commitment of leading sport organizations willing to fund scientific breakthroughs which advance anti-doping policy. The initial (and subsequent) financial contributions of these four founding PCC members catalyzed the anti-doping research collaborative known as the Partnership for Clean Competition.

The decision was a vocal stand for sporting integrity, and an investment in clean sport and in the health of athletes worldwide.

Tell us more about your focus on “the science of doping.”

While a robust approach to anti-doping policy involves several aspects (such as the education that Drug Free Sport provides), the PCC focuses on advancing the science and technology surrounding anti-doping sample collection, detection, and analysis. Our science varies based on emerging priorities, but could involve the creation of new testing methods that are less invasive and expensive, reference materials for WADA-accredited labs, or innovative tests for new substances. With new doping agents and methods being created every day to try and evade current testing capabilities, it’s paramount that the PCC continues to fund the research that produces sound responses to imminent anti-doping challenges.

What is something that you’d like the public to know about the PCC? 

The PCC funds PhD scientists all over the world (we currently have projects ongoing in 14 different countries), and we are always looking for additional investigators to contribute their unique acumen and scientific perspective to anti-doping challenges. A common misconception is that only dedicated ‘anti-doping scientists’ advance technology in this domain. The truth is, while there are certainly some incredible researchers who have devoted their careers to clean sport, many of the investigators we fund are taking the important work they develop or study in their scientific discipline and applying it to an anti-doping context. We have chemists, biologists, endocrinologists, pathologists, physiologists, food scientists, toxicologists, exercise scientists, and many others currently working on new and exciting developments. There are truly few areas of science that do not play a role, and we’re happy to talk through projects with scientists who aren’t certain if their work is a good fit.

What are some of the research-related findings that the PCC has contributed toward recently?

The PCC has granted over $18 million in research to 100+ investigators around the world; many recent advancements in PED detection and analysis are due to PCC funding. To understand how important this is, newly-found positives during reanalysis of samples from past Olympic games are possible, thanks to the more precise scientific methods developed by scientists.

While this type of research will always be a priority, the PCC has recently invested significant amounts of funding in alternative matrices – or new ways to collect and analyze samples. Currently, most drug testing is done on blood or urine, but two emerging technologies are on our radar:

      1. Breath testing. The PCC has invested in SensaBues breath tests as a quick, easy, and low-cost alternative to current in-competition testing. Athletes simply breathe into the device, which has been proven to detect not only drugs of abuse, but many classes of anti-doping substances, with lab analysis using existing WADA approved methods. PCC investment in the tests is ongoing, and we hope to do a pilot study in 2018.
      2. Dried Plasma Spot Card Testing. While current blood tests involves the use of phlebotomists to  draw blood (a process which may be perceived as invasive by athletes), the PCC has developed cards that require only a finger prick of blood to perform several different analyses. Not only is sample collection quick and easy, but the cards are easy to store, analyze, and transport, potentially providing a significant cost savings over blood testing.

We believe that developing lower-cost, less invasive sample collection methods may increase overall testing, thus enhancing overall deterrenceThe PCC is investing in the scientific validation that would be required to protect clean athletes at the same level as blood and urine matrices currently used.

As an organization that funds research, you have a grant cycle deadline coming up. Care to talk about your grant processes and programs?

Absolutely! To begin a PCC grant, investigators must first fill out our 1 – 2 page “Pre-Application”, designed to gather high-level information about the intended project to ensure it fits the PCC mission and priorities. We do this so that investigators presenting research outside of our scope don’t spend time filling out our (lengthy) full application. For instance, the PCC does not currently fund social science research, even on the topic of anti-doping. We always encourage interested researchers to review our research priorities before submitting a pre-application. 
Pre-applications are due March 1st, July 1st, and November 1st of each year.

As soon as pre-applications are approved (and most are), investigators are invited to submit the full PCC application, now available to them via their project site on our website. This application ranges in length from around 10 pages, to upwards of 75 pages, depending on the level of detail the investigators provide, the complexity of their research, and the amount of supplemental information they provide (for instance preliminary studies and data). Hint: the more experimental detail provided in an application, the more likely it is to be approved.
Full applications are due April 1st, August 1st, and December 1st of each year (one month after the pre-application of that cycle).

Once full applications are received, they are reviewed by two members of our 10-member Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), which consists of scientific experts representing a diverse array of disciplines (from endocrinology to exercise physiology). The SAB meets every cycle to then collectively discuss the applications, and the feedback provided by each reviewer. As a unit, the SAB then makes funding recommendations for each application submitted during the cycle to our Board of Governors (consisting of a representative from each of our Founding Members) for final approval before successful investigators are notified.

At this point, the PCC will negotiate terms and conditions with the researcher’s host institution. Unsuccessful investigators will receive feedback on their application, and may be invited to re-submit their project with changes (often more detail is required). The entire process from pre-application to funding and/or feedback takes 3-5 months.

What has research shown that may be next, in terms of doping to gain an athletic advantage?

This is a difficult question to answer and one that is constantly changing. The PCC does get applications from scientists and lab directors who have concerns about specific substances and propose research on those substances. We also incorporate input from our sponsors, who are often on the front lines with regards to new perforamnce-enhancing substances. If researchers from labs, academia, or the private sector believe they have identified a need in the anti-doping community, we would encourage them to apply for a grant or micro-grant.