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SBD Global/July 4, 2012/Olympics

Australia's Olympic Committee Bans Athletes From Taking Sleeping Pills

The Australian Olympic Committee has banned its national athletes from the sleeping tablet Stilnox and are discouraging them from engaging in a "vicious circle" of using sleeping tablets to relax and caffeine to stimulate their performance, according to Korporaal & Kogoy of THE AUSTRALIAN. AOC President John Coates said, "We are very worried about the vicious circle of athletes taking caffeine as a performance enhancer and then needing to take drugs such as Stilnox to get to sleep." Coates said that the AOC "would be prepared to enter athletes' rooms in the Olympic village" at the London Games to make sure that they were not using Stilnox or other strong sleeping tablets. The AOC's intervention followed this week's revelations by Olympic swimmer Grant Hackett that he "became dependent on the sleeping drug, which could have affected his performance during the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he failed to win gold in the 1500m freestyle." World Anti-Doping Agency President John Fahey said that WADA would not be banning the use of caffeine by elite athletes, and they "had no intention" of banning Stilnox (THE AUSTRALIAN, 7/4).

RISK INVOLVED: In Sydney, Wayne Smith cited former Olympic swimmer Travis Nederpelt saying that there were "risks associated with taking it away from athletes" before a major competition. Nederpelt: "If it does cost someone a medal, it will be for mental reasons because their routine is thrown out. But having been to two Olympics, I know it's the mental reasons that hurt you most, not the physical." Athletes and medical experts questioned whether the potential harm caused by taking the drug outweighed the problems caused by sleep deprivation, and noted that "athletes from other nations, including swimming champion Michael Phelps, could still use Stilnox." Nederpelt added, "I've had really good nights' sleep using Stilnox and come up feeling full of energy the next day" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 7/4).
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