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Cielo Case: Caffeine Pill Lab Admits Mistake

Jul 29, 2011  - Craig Lord

Olympic champion Cesar Cielo took "sufficient precautions" over the use of food supplements which resulted in him failing a doping test, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said today as it explained why it had allowed the Brazilian sprinter to race in Shanghai at world championships this week. 

On the day that Cielo qualified in second place behind teammate Bruno Fratus for the final of the 50m freestyle Saturday, CAS said in its ruling that Cielo's doctor had prescribed caffeine capsules since 2009 and they had been manufactured by the same pharmacy since then. The pharmacy that prepared the capsules admitted that on the same day it had also made up, for other clients, several prescriptions for the treatment of heart disease, an ingredient of which was furosemide, CAS explained.

Sport's highest tribunal said that the use of food supplements by athletes was "generally risky" but it ruled in favour of Cielo and against a call from  FINA for a 3-month ban in the face of a warning issued by Brazil's swim federation that resulted in widespread criticism in the sport among those concerned over the wide difference in treatment of similar doping cases.

"The CAS panel recognised that the use of food supplements by athletes was generally risky, but that, in the present case, the athletes took sufficient precautions to reduce their fault or negligence to the minimum," said CAS.

Cielo, 24, and three teammates tested positive for the banned diuretic furosemide in May but their national governing body (CBDA) decided against banning them. CAS similar rulings to that handed down on Cielo in the cases of Henrique Barbosa and Nicolas Dos Santos but banned Vinicius Waked for a year as it was a second doping offence in his case.

Cielo, Olympic 50m free champion, world 50 and 100m free champion in Rome and world 50m butterfly champion in Shanghai this week,  argued that the positive test had been caused by a cafeine supplement he took regularly that had become contaminated.

CAS issued its ruling on the Thursday before racing began in Shanghai on Sunday July 24.

CAS added that FINA had accepted that the furosemide was not intended to enhance the performance of the swimmers or mask the use of a performance-enhancing substances. FINA argued that the mistake was serious enough for a 3-month suspension.

Now back to caffeine. Here is some material on the subject:

"Short-term effects of a drug are those that appear soon after a single dose and disappear within hours. Ingestion of the amount of caffeine in one or two cups of coffee (75-150 mg) causes many mild physiological effects. General metabolism increases - expressed as an increase in activity or raised temperature, or both. The rate of breathing increases, as does urination and the levels of fatty acids in the blood and of gastric acid in the stomach. (However, at least one other component of coffee also increases gastric acid secretion. Therefore ulcer sufferers may not achieve relief by switching to decaffeinated coffee.) Caffeine use may increase blood pressure. Caffeine stimulates the brain and behavior. Use of 75-150 mg of caffeine elevates neural activity in many parts of the brain, postpones fatigue, and enhances performance at simple intellectual tasks and at physical work that involves endurance but not fine motor coordination. (Caffeine-caused tremor can reduce hand steadiness.) Caffeine's effects on complex intellectual tasks and on mood do not lend themselves to a simple summary. The effects depend on the personality of the user, on the immediate environment, on the user's knowing whether caffeine has been taken, and even on the time of day."

Precisely how that is useful when it comes to making sure an athlete has all the nutrients he or she needs to have the energy and the rights forms of energy, is not easy to fathom.