Glucocorticoids in elite sport: current status, controversies and innovative management strategies-a narrative review

Alan Vernec, Andrew Slack, Peter Rex Harcourt, Richard Budgett, Martine Duclos, Audrey Kinahan, Katja Mjøsund, Christian J Strasburger
British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020, 54 (1): 8-12
The use of systemic glucocorticoids (GCs), as well as local injections, continues to be a controversial issue in the sport/anti-doping community. There is widespread and legitimate use of GCs for numerous health conditions, yet there are concerns about side effects and the possibility of enhanced athletic performance in limited settings. This is compounded by the uncertainty regarding the prevalence of GC use, mechanisms underlying physiological effects and complex pharmacokinetics of different formulations. While WADA continues to promote research in this complex area, some international sporting federations, major event organisers and professional sports leagues have introduced innovative rules such as needle policies, mandatory rest periods and precompetition guidelines to promote judicious use of GCs, focusing on athlete health and supervision of medical personnel. These complementary sport-specific rules are helping to ensure the appropriate use of GCs in athletes where overuse is a particular concern. Where systemic GCs are medically necessary, Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) may be granted after careful evaluation by TUE Committees based on specific and strict criteria. Continued vigilance and cooperation between physicians, scientists and anti-doping organisations is essential to ensure that GC use in sport respects not only principles of fairness and adherence to the rules but also promotes athlete health and well-being. The purpose of this narrative review is to summarise the use and management of GCs in sport illustrating several innovative programmes by sport leagues and federations.

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