Ethical Cheating or Ergogenic Aids: Coffee and Caffeine

This is part 3 of a multi part series.  Part 1 was the ESPN radio interview. Part 2 looked at the history of Ethical Cheating or Ergogenic Aids and some of the disgusting food choices.

Let’s go over some of the common products you can buy today over the counter and NOT test positive, and remember this is only a short list.  I could go on forever… that is, a list as big as your wallet!

Here are some of the food groups, common sources, chemical names, and classification (in no particular order):


  1. coffee, caffeine, stimulants
  2. RedBull, 5 Hour, Vitalyze, phenylalanines including Tyrosine & Taurine, nootropics
  3. baking soda, TUMS, sodium bicarbonate, beta alanine, lactic acid buffers
  4. Viagra and other Nitric Oxide products including L-Citrulline Malate and L-Arginine, vasodilators
  5. Quercetin (new product… discussed briefly here)
  6. IHT or Intermittent Hypoxic Training methods (tents, chambers, masks, etc.) to increase erythropoietin (EPO) levels and therefore increase red blood cells.
  7. Others?

First, a preamble on DHEA and Sudafed

I’ll leave out DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and Sudafed (pseudoephedrine hydrochloride) as these will test positive!

In April 2010, LaShawn Merritt was banned from competition for allegedly taking ExtenZe, which contains DHEA.  You can buy DHEA supplements over the counter.  The ExtenZe also contains a yohimbe extract which increases metabolism and body temperature as well as act as a stimulant.  This must be the “bedtime rush” that men feel when taking this supplement (I would not know… honestly!)

So they do not test for Viagra, but taking ExtenZe will test positive because of DHEA.

You can buy the new formulation of Sudafed over the counter, but the older version with pseudoephedrine hydrochloride is available behind the counter requiring your ID and a maximum of one box per day.  The reason for this to prevent homemade crystal meth made from the latter.

Professional Hockey players are notorious for taking a cocktail of Starbucks coffee and Sudafed 2 hours before a game.  In fact, they were warned at the Olympics that they would test positive if they weren’t careful.

More information on ephedrine and yohimbe extract as stimulants and weight loss can be found in my 2007 article on 7 Types of “Fat Burning” Supplements.

Coffee: Why I like it, and why I drink it

Coffee, and caffeine, is a stimulant.  Plain and simple.

And I’ll go on record that I do drink it every day in everyday life, as well as before track meets.  Call me a cheater in my face, no problem, I’ll kick your butt in the 400m.

First reason: it helps me wake up, especially when I have a 9 or 10 am heat, I like to wake up 4 hours before.  To understand why, read Sleep for Athletes

2nd reason: This is a real crappy topic to discuss, but coffee helps empty my bowels in the morning.  Plain and simple.

3rd reason: I personally feel it helps with my reaction time.  If Yohan Blake had a better reaction time on his 19.26 200m (it was 0.269 where his 100m reaction time was 0.174 in Daegu), he would have broken the world record with a 19.17 WR.  Here is a detailed read on how to practice reaction times,

4th reason (but not the reason why I take it): it helps increase metabolism and burn fat.  Even without working out, I can maintain a BF of less than 10% and I think that is attributed to my metabolism, with coffee being one of my reasons for staying lean.

5th reason (for long distance and marathon runners): it helps increases the blood level of free fatty acids available for metabolism, instead of using glycogen.  This only works with slower running speeds.  It also helps delay fatigue (or perceived fatigue) which is why you see caffeine in products like Goos, Gels, and Clif Shot Bloks.

Further studies and articles on coffee and caffeine on this Blog:

  1. Coffee is Good. Coffee is Bad. You Choose (Part 2)
  2. 17 Reasons to love Coffee, Espresso and Caffeine
  3. Coffee is Good. Coffee is Bad. You Choose
  4. Caffeine Limits in the NCAA
  5. Benefits of Caffeine and Multiple Sprint Running Performance
  6. Caffeine Effects on Short-Term Performance during Prolonged Exercise in the Heat
  7. 7 Types of “Fat Burning” Supplements