Utah Jazz forward Boris Diaw doesn’t go a day without his daily dose of coffee, and now neither do many of his teammates. The 34-year-old Frenchman turned his team onto the caffeinated beverage after being traded last summer from the San Antonio Spurs and now it’s practically a tradition to sip espresso before games. Diaw has even traveled with his own mini barista bar.
But what if Diaw, the Jazz and the countless other athletes who regularly consume caffeine had to give up it up? According to Russian Federal Microbiological Agency chief Vladimir Uiba, that could be coming.
“Caffeine,” he told Russian news agency TASS last week, “is currently on WADA’s waiting list of prohibited substances. If it eventually makes its way into the list of the prohibited substances, we will be forced to recommend everyone against drinking coffee as well as soft drinks containing caffeine.”
“Theoretically, it can happen this year,” Uiba added.
Uiba is right about the substance being on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s watch list for in-competition prohibited substances, but he’s likely incorrect in insinuating athletes will have to give up coffee, soda and other naturally caffeinated beverages and food altogether.
“Generally speaking, WADA is extremely careful that normal food consumption does not interfere with anti-doping tests,” WADA spokeswoman Maggie Durand said Tuesday.
WADA added caffeine to its Monitoring Program for 2017 so experts could study whether athletes are using the substance “with the intent of enhancing performance.”
WADA’s study will continue through September, at which point the agency will issue a three-month notice that the substance will be added to the Prohibited List the following year. To be added to the prohibited list, the substance must meet two or three criteria: 1) It has the potential to enhance performance; 2) It poses a health risk to athletes; and/or 3) It violates “the spirit of sport.”
Caffeine has been a prohibited substance before, but it was removed in 2003 to prevent athletes “who … drink cola or coffee from testing positive to banned substances,” Agence France-Presse reported at the time.
“Hence the thresholds or reporting values established for some prohibited substances naturally present in foodstuff,” Durand said.
Without more research, WADA can’t predict what its threshold might be. Nor does the agency want to predict whether it’s likely caffeine will wind up back on the prohibited list at this point, but it appears, whatever happens, it’s likely Diaw and others won’t have to give up their pregame rituals.
The old threshold from when caffeine was previously on the prohibited list was 12 micrograms per milliliter, which amounts to about “four Starbucks lattes” ingested within a couple of hours, according to Men’s Health.
The NCAA currently limits caffeine consumption for college athletes to 15 micrograms per milliliter, or roughly six to eight cups of coffee ingested two to three hours before a competition.
“More caffeine is not necessarily better,” a report published by the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association states. “Caffeine consumed at very high levels — 6-9 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight — can cause gastrointestinal issues, nausea or shaking, as well as ‘overstimulation’ that can negatively impact training, sleep and performance.”
Likewise, the report said some caffeine can enhance speed and stamina, but it really depends on the individual.
Diaw and the Jazz declined to comment, but whatever they’re doing is working, whether it has to do with the coffee or not. The team is fourth in the very competitive Western Conference, with a 40-24 record.