Caffeine/Sleeping pills in sport captures national media attention in Australia

On July 5th, a prominent Australian Rules football player suffered an ‘adverse reaction’ to sleeping pills after a game. Drug testing confirmed that the player had not taken any banned drugs and there was no suggestion of that. The media ran stories of players being on a cycle of caffeine ‘uppers’ followed by sleeping pill ‘downers’ as a part of the weekly cycle. TV File footage showed ‘No Doz’ tablet being available to players in the rooms immediately prior to a game. A few former players acknowledged that taking caffeine tablets was part of some players’ routines. Note that Australian Rules football is largely played in one time zone and the player in question was not from a team that regularly travels across time zones.

Australasian College of Sports Physicians President, Andrew Garnham raised important questions on this issue in his weekly newsletter (shared here with permission):

This episode raised many questions. Who should be commenting? What are the boundaries of privacy and confidentiality in such a situation? Could there be any legal implications of comments? Will commenting help to better inform the general public and everyone assocaited with the sport? Does caffeine help performance in AFL football, as it is played in 2010? Are sleeping tablets really necessary after games, especially at night? Do the players fully understand these issues? How much can a club control the medical treatment of an individual? Are the objectives of the performance staff and medical staff at the club correctly aligned? I do think the hot question of whether caffeine tablets should be banned is easily dispensed with.

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