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November 13, 1987

On to 1988 Olympics... With Lessons Learned

JAMA. 1987;258(18):2485-2486. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400180019004

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IF THERE IS ONE major lesson for physicians and others in sports medicine to take forward from the 1987 PanAmerican Games, it is that medical treatment programs at sports events generally work very well, but there still are pitfalls in large-scale drug testing of athletes.

Everyone praised the Sports Medicine Drug Identification Laboratory at Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis, which tested 978 urine samples during the games and which reported finding the not-as-yet-banned uricosuric probenecid in an undisclosed number of athletes' urine samples.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) asked for tracking of the drug because of persistent rumors that probenecid is being used by athletes to mask the presence of anabolic steroids. (Probenecid can be used to prolong the action of penicillin-like antibiotics and thus is often prescribed for sexually transmitted diseases. Its other common use is for gout.)

The problems with the drug testing program originated outside the laboratory