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Is unintentional doping real, or just an excuse?
  1. Derwin King Chung Chan1,2,
  2. Tracy Chor Wai Tang1,
  3. Patrick Shu-Hang Yung3,
  4. Daniel F Gucciardi2,
  5. Martin S Hagger2,4
  1. 1The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  2. 2Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  3. 3The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  4. 4University of Jyväskylä, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Derwin King Chung Chan, University of Hong Kong, School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, Pokfulam, Hong Kong; derwin.chan{at}hku.hk, kc.derwin{at}gmail.com

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Although some athletes who engage in doping do so willingly in order to gain an unfair advantage (ie, ‘to cheat’), the possibility of athletes doping inadvertently or unintentionally cannot be discounted. In this article, we aim to address common misconceptions of the notion of ‘unintentional doping’, and discuss this topic with reference to statistics, reports and recommendations (eg, anti-doping codes) produced by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), together with evidence from recent empirical research.

Unintentional doping (also known as ‘inadvertent’ or ‘accidental’ doping) refers to the accidental consumption of performance-enhancing substances included on WADA’s banned list.1 It often occurs when an athlete uses a product (eg, nutritional supplements, ‘energy’ drinks or products, and medical, herbal or ‘natural’ products) that contains the banned substance or is exposed to the banned substance in routine situations (eg, drug smoke, hormone-tainted meat), while being unaware of the presence of the banned substance.1-4 However, it is acknowledged that unintentional doping is often used as an excuse by athletes to explain adverse analytical findings in doping control samples.4 WADA has adopted a near zero-tolerance policy when it comes to athletes claiming unintentional use. The relevant WADA statute notes …

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