Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Friday, March 25, 2016

Drug Free Sport's Continuing Education Awards Celebrate Athletic Trainers in National Athletic Training Month!

March brings about many things in the athletics world – spring, “Madness” in college basketball, the start of baseball – but it is also important for the unsung heroes behind these feats. This month is National Athletic Training Month, a time where many athletes across America have taken to showing appreciation for the men and women that keep them on the fields and courts of the sports world.

Drug Free Sport is proud to acknowledge these valuable contributors. Along with their day-to-day duties that often make for long hours, they are also on the front lines of drug abuse prevention and drug education for student-athletes. Frankly, their contributions go relatively unnoticed to many when the winning shot or touchdown is scored or when an athlete is being interviewed for recovering from an injury beyond expectations. They spend most days devoted to the greater good of others. We would like to devote a special honor upon them, to better their careers and experience.

Since 2013, Drug Free Sport has awarded more than $20,000 to high school and college athletic trainers who are working in drug use deterrence. This year, in honor of National Athletic Training Month, we have extended our submission deadline for the 2016 Drug Free Sport Fund Continuing Education Awards to May 1. Awards can be used toward continuing education opportunities, including the “Sport Exchange Summit, Powered by Drug Free Sport” in July. If you would like to be considered or know of an AT that is deserving of one of these awards, please review our qualifications and the application process on the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation website. Multiple awards (at a minimum of $1,000 per non-renewable award) will be granted, depending on the number and quality of applicants.

Thanks to all athletic trainers for the important work that is being done to educate athletes on the perils of drug abuse.

For additional questions about the award or application process, please feel free to contact Gene Willis, Director of Marketing, at gwillis@drugfreesport.com

Friday, March 18, 2016

Meldonium (Mildronate): What is it and What does it do?

In light of recent media attention surrounding meldonium and its detection in elite athletes, we thought it best to share reliable information about the drug, its intended purpose, and potential use as a performance-enhancing substance.

Blog Article Contributed by Eric Smith, PharmD.

Expert Consultant for the Resource Exchange Center (REC), Powered by Drug Free Sport™

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added meldonium (Mildronate) to their 2016 Prohibited List in late September 2015. This modification—among others­­—went into effect January 1, 2016. WADA added meldonium as a prohibited substance due to “evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance.”

A Latvian pharmaceutical company with primary distribution in Eastern Europe and Russia manufactures meldonium under the brand name Mildronate. In the 1970s, Mildronate was developed to promote the growth of livestock. Currently, the drug is marketed to treat a variety of medical conditions including ischemic heart disease, heart failure, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and alcohol withdrawal.  Also indicated for use in healthy individuals experiencing physical and mental stress, Mildronate targets athletes as well.

Recent studies identified Mildronate as having anti-ischemic properties. Ischemia is a medical term used to describe a decrease in blood supply to certain parts of the body. A reduction in blood circulation minimizes the delivery and availability of oxygen and sugars needed by the body’s cells. Having anti-ischemic properties makes Mildronate beneficial for treating situations associated with decreased blood supply.   

The drug primarily functions to increase oxygen efficiency in certain body tissues. This makes sense when you reconsider that decreased blood supply (ischemia) reduces oxygen delivery to the tissues. Mildronate works to optimize energy production by interfering with energy pathways that use more oxygen (less efficient) and alternatively promoting pathways that use less oxygen (more efficient).

Mildronate achieves this by blocking pathways involved in carnitine production. Carnitine is an amino acid derivative used in the process of breaking fats down into fatty acids and converting them into energy.  Mildronate creates lower levels of carnitine thereby reducing the body’s ability to breakdown fats for energy.

The body adjusts by increasing the use of an alternative energy pathway called glycolysis.  Glycolysis is more efficient than fatty acid metabolism because it not only uses less oxygen, but also decreases the amount of toxins (such as lactic acid) that build up in cells during energy production.

For athletes, taking this medication could potentially increase muscle and nervous system oxygen efficiency. Using oxygen more effectively in working tissues may lead to performance enhancing benefits such as improved exercise tolerance, improved recovery, stress protection, and improved central nervous system functions. 

Isn’t biochemistry and pharmacology fun?

Mildronate is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sale in the United States.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Drug Free Sport Presents Sport Exchange Summit 2016!

We are gearing up for our first education conference and are thrilled to share our dynamic program featuring sport industry professionals and subject matter experts. From our work, we know that bridging effective communication and collaboration between all of these parties is essential for providing optimal care to athletes AND supporting organizational success. 

The Sport Exchange Summit not only provides current information on topics related to athlete care, but also encourages the opportunity to learn and network from other sport professionals. Attendees will be a multidisciplinary crowd of sport dietitians, athletic trainers, strength & conditioning coaches, team coaches, team physicians, sport psychologists, athletic administrators, and others who directly impact athlete performance and well-being.

This week we are excited to highlight three of our speakers!

Out in Sports: Considerations for Supporting Trans Athlete Identities
Day One, July 12, 2016 at 3:15 pm.

Jonathon T. Pryor, Assistant Director for LGBTQIA Programs and Services at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, will be engaging attendees in a timely discussion on strategies to support transgender athletes. Over the past year, the transgender community has received increased exposure in the media. In anticipation of this social movement, it will be important for athletic organizations to proactively create opportunities that support these individuals while maintaining the integrity and competition of sport. This session will not only cover "transgender basics" such as appropriate terminology, but also provide discussion and considerations for transgender athletes in competitive sport. 

Running Effective Drug Testing Programs
Day Two, July 13, 2016 at 9:30 am.

Mary Wilfert, Associate Director for the NCAA Sport Science Institute,  will join this panel discussion on current trends and perspectives related to the administration of effective drug testing programs in sport. Wilfert will be joined by Dr. Tom Hospel, Medical Director for the PGA Tour, and Dr. Bryan Smith, Medical Representative for the Major League Baseball Drug Program. Attendees will gain a heightened understanding of why drug testing is an effective deterrence model, and explore the new science and technologies being used to identify performance-enhancing substances. This session will also provide an opportunity for attendees to ask the panel questions in an open forum. 

Race & Diversity Issues in Sport: Action and Influence
Day One, July 12, 2016 at 2:30 pm.
Dr. Pat Ivey, Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity for the University of Missouri-Columbia, will be presenting as a panelist for the Race and Diversity discussions on Day One of the event. Ivey's doctorate in sport psychology effectively folds into his experiences as a professional athlete (signed by the San Diego Chargers in 1996), award-winning strength and conditioning coach, and current work at the University of Missouri to address university programs and partnerships available to athletes of all backgrounds and ages. Given the recent media coverage on racial tensions at the University of Missouri, Ivey and his colleagues are making positive strides to create change on campus, and have much to offer on this important topic affecting sport organizations around the country. 


  • Building an Effective "Team Behind the Team"
  • High Performance Sports Nutrition: Impact & Influence on Sports Programs
  • Innovative and Effective Athlete Engagement Strategies: An Introspective and Synergistic Approach
  • Life after Sports: Helping Athletes Transition and Build a New Identity
  • Marijuana: Impact of Legalization and New Forms of Consumption
  • Out in Sports: Considerations for Supporting Trans Athlete Identities
  • Prescription Drug Abuse in Sport
  • Race & Diversity Issues in Sport: A Case Study
    (led by University of Missouri officials)
  • Race & Diversity Issues in Sport: Action and Influence
  • (led by University of Missouri officials)
  • Running Effective Drug Testing Programs
  • Sport Psychology: Professional Issues & Psychological Care of the Athlete
  • Supplement Certification Programs:
    State of the Industry and What You Need to Know

Early Bird Registration ends March 31st! 

Get more information and register at sportexchangesummit.com

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Blood Testing for Prohibited Substances in Sport

Welcome to the restored Drug Free Sport Blog, Perspectives

After a three-year hiatus, we are eager to begin sharing our expertise, stories, and trending news related to sport drug testing and athlete health. We hope to reengage our followers and expand our reach to new audiences to provide valuable “perspectives” about our company, staff, and the sport drug testing industry. Thank you for reading and sharing!

To kick-off our reentry into the blogosphere, we explore blood testing for prohibited substances in sport, current trends related to phlebotomy testing, and other fun facts from the industry.

To gain insight into the use of blood for drug testing athletes we sat down for a Q&A with our own Ben Mosier, Director of Professional Sports Drug Testing, Ryan Willis, Director of NFL PED Drug Testing, and Sarah Ziegelmann, Phlebotomy Services Program Manager.

Q: Drug Free Sport has been conducting blood drug testing in professional sports since 2004. Has anything significant changed in this area of drug testing?

A: Blood testing continues to expand in professional sports through the continuous addition of certified phlebotomists and an increased understanding of the process and specificity of testing. Currently, there is increasing interest in blood biomarkers and the athlete’s biological passport. Biomarker testing serves to monitor variables over time that may reveal the effect of doping, and the biological passport uses longitudinal profiling to test an athlete’s blood for initial testosterone levels. These levels are held on a file and reviewed in the future to determine if the athlete has used testosterone boosting substances. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will begin biomarker testing in the near future.

Q: So instead of testing for testosterone at a single test, you’re comparing the athlete’s own blood levels of testosterone from one sample to another over a period of time?

A:  Exactly. That would be an example of using the Athlete Biological Passport. The Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) provides a longitudinal study that monitors a panel of biomarkers within the athlete’s blood that will indirectly show the effects of doping over a period of time. Instead of searching for a specific performance-enhancing substance, a positive test can result from inconsistencies measured in the athlete’s biomarker levels. This is called a Non-Analytical Positive. Blood testing in sport can also identify and accurately detect two other categories of performance enhancement that other matrices cannot: Blood Doping and Human Growth Hormone (hGH).  

Q: Tell us about these other categories. What makes them different?

A:  There are several substances or methods used for blood doping in sports. Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents (ESA), also known as recombinant erythropoietin (rEPO),work by stimulating the production of more red blood cells. Hemoglobin-based Oxygen Carriers (HBOC) and Homologous Blood Transfusions (HBT) are other blood doping methods. All three methods are used in various manners to increase an athlete’s red blood cell count, resulting in an increase of stamina and performance. Blood passport testing is used to target and identify these different doping methodologies. 

Human growth hormone (hGH) is a naturally occurring substance in the body produced by the pituitary gland. hGH is most often attributed to blood drug testing in sports. Synthetic hGH is used as a Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) to enhance the growth of bone, muscle and organ tissues within the body.  The Isoforms Test and Biomarkers Test can be used to determine whether the hGH levels in an athlete are naturally occurring or synthetically altered.

Q: How accurate are the results of these blood tests?

A: When conducted according to the specified collection procedures and protocols, blood testing provides less than a 0.01% error—higher accuracy than provided by urine drug tests.

Q: Are blood test results produced quicker than urine tests?

A: The speed of receiving results from a blood test is primarily dependent on the drug-testing laboratories’ volume at the time. The average timeframe for a result is 10 – 14 days, but for an additional fee the process can be expedited. A benefit of blood testing is the ability to test 20 samples at a time which can speed the process compared to urine testing. Urine testing has a 14 day result turn around.  

Q: How do athletes feel about blood testing compared to urine testing?

A: The average blood draw takes about 10 minutes, which most athletes prefer due to the quickness of the test and the ability to perform a test on demand as opposed to waiting to produce and validate a urine sample. On the other hand, some athletes have a fear of needles, making this type of testing less desirable. Under most circumstances, trained phlebotomists administering the tests are skilled at calming the athlete and successfully collecting a sample.

Q: What would be good information for athletes to know about what to expect from a blood test?

The average blood draw takes 10 minutes, 
and collects 10mL of blood.

10mL is one-third of a standard shot of espresso. 
Photo credit: by Sandstein (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

A: Well, the notification of a blood test to an athlete is dependent on if the sport is in-season or off-season. Also, to ensure accuracy, blood tests require specific amounts of time between when an athlete last engaged in physical activity/exercise and the blood collection. When being tested for hGH, the athlete must wait at least 30 minutes after exercise to produce a blood sample. For ESA blood testing, the athlete has to wait a minimum of two hours after engaging in physical activity.

Similar to urine-based drug tests, the athletes are able to select their testing devices and custody and control forms for testing. Trained phlebotomists ensure that clients have a full scope of knowledge in regards to the blood collection process; this also protects the health and safety of the athletes. Prior to testing, the phlebotomist will ask about the athlete’s history with providing blood samples along with potential complications. Once athlete identification and demographic information is confirmed, the blood draw begins. Blood tests are administered using a small needle and collect 10 milliliters (mL) of blood in a test tube. (Consider: The human body has approximately 5,500 mL of blood and a standard shot of espressoholds 30 mL of fluid.) The collection tube is then secured into transport kits, stored, and shipped in temperature controlled containers. Both the athlete and collector confirm the validity of the procedure with affidavits and if feeling well, the athlete is dismissed.

Blood testing collections continue to expand in professional sports and new scientific advancements and innovations further protect the integrity and landscape of the sport drug testing industry. Drug Free Sport oversees the collection of 5,000 blood tests annually. Our experts are here to answer questions and assist you through the process. Feel free to leave comments or reach out to us directly with any questions.