In sports we seem to be never more than a few days removed from the latest Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) scandal. Cycling, American Football, Baseball and Athletics have terrible records for PED abuse from virtually the lowest levels to the highest with athletes, coaches and administrators implicated. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is forever handing down suspensions and removing achievements. But that’s something we in archery don’t need to worry about is it! … Err, is it?
So first, a little history. In the 1990’s, doping scandals had reached epidemic levels. At the World Conference on Doping in Switzerland in 1999, WADA was founded to counter the increasing levels of PED use in every sport and at all levels. Archery GB’s code of conduct states that they will follow UK Sport’s anti-doping rules. The UK, in turn, complies with WADA’s world anti doping code. So as AGB affiliated archers, we are all under WADA’s scrutiny.
But surely, PED’s are hardly an issue for us?
Well, yes they can be but not in the way you think … and don’t call me Shirley!
While substances such as steroids, masking agents, hormone and metabolic modulators, human growth hormone, stimulants and narcotics are blanket banned across all sports, archers have 2 additional named substances that are specifically banned for us in competition.
Beta Blockers: These are prescription-only medicines that reduce blood pressure. They work by blocking the effects of adrenaline in your blood. That in turn helps the heart work more efficiently thereby reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tremors and even anxiety. In other words they can give you a steadier hand, increase your focus and reduce those nerves. Does that sound like something that an archer might desire?
Admittedly, no scientific research has yet been carried out on archers using beta blockers. World Archery has proposed a study into the effects of these drugs on fine motor skills and the implications to posture and stability, aiming, reaction to the clicker and ultimately, scores. As yet no report has been released or conclusion reached.
Alcohol: There are only 5 sports that ban alcohol in competition. Motorsports, aero sports, powerboating, motorcycle racing and archery. Now obviously being hammered while in charge of racing car, bike, boat or plane is bad, but why the focus on archery?
Well, in 1985 and again in 1993, studies concluded ” … that small amounts of alcohol in sports where steady hands and nerves are required, for example, archery and darts, the sedative, anti-tremor and anxiolytic effects of alcohol could have an ergogenic effect. (Reilly and Halliday, 1985; Reilly and Scott, 1993)” Ergogenic in this case mean substances or devices that enhance energy production, use or recovery and provide athletes with a competitive advantage. Anxiolytic is a term when referring to a drug that is used to relieve anxiety.
As a result, alcohol was deemed to be an archery PED (and not just for drowning the shooting sorrows of archers) so WADA banned it. Now obviously we are not talking a bottle of wine or a 6 pack here – gods, that would be horrific! Our editor still has PTSD from watching youtube vids with Americans in plaid shirts talking about their approach to archery while holding a compound in one hand and a succession of beers in the other. However, low levels of alcohol can relax you and slow reaction speed just enough resulting in steadier, more confident shots. Now with all that said, I’m pretty sure that there is a longbow society that begins every competition with a loyal toast to the Queen. Not sure how a small port will affect the longbow fraternity (real ale fanatics all) but I doubt WADA is going to lose sleep over a tradition like this. Hmm, just a final thought … are judges covered by the same rules? I mean, “sober as a judge” is an expression but who wouldn’t be driven to drink having to deal with competitive archers every weekend?! :o)
So, lets all remember WADA is watching next time you feel the draw of the off licence. Personally I’m off for an alkoholfrei isotonic ‘beer’ honest mister! … (Cheers! ;o)
Update from WADA for Archery 2022
Relationship between Darts and Alcohol – Alas Smith and Jones
Archer banned for 2 years following failed drugs test
Is the relationship between sport and alcohol a healthy one? Adam Young – University College London