Donati says link exists between doping and coke use

Italian anti-doping expert Sandro Donati has challenged the notion that there is no direct correlation between recreational cocaine use and the abuse of performance enhancing drugs, saying this week that the two are often linked.

Under the WADA Code, an athlete cannot be punished for testing positive for the substance in out of competition tests. However, Donati indicated at the Play The Game conference in Coventry that he is sceptical about separating the two.

"I don't understand when, every time an athlete is positive for cocaine, that the sporting institutions immediately explain that it is not for performance, it is only for personal use," he said.

"This is an incredible explanation. I was a coach and I know very well the mental balance of the athlete. It is impossible for someone who uses cocaine for his personal life to have a good balance...because the role of the athlete is very complex.

"It means that someone involved in the use of cocaine is not a normal athlete. It means that the using is only a compensation for other using [of drugs]...the cocaine is only the tip of the iceberg."

As justification for his stance, Donati referred to his work as a consultant for a prosecutor in doping cases. "I know very well the connection in using [of both types]," he said, explaining that the substance is used by some in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

It is utilised "mainly to compensate for the slump in mood and aggressiveness during the suspension of anabolic steroids or testosterone," he explained. "There is the consequence of becoming addicted to both categories of substances."

Former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani died of a cocaine overdose in 2004. There have been several high-profile cases of cyclists testing positive for the drug.

While Donati did not name any particular athletes - and therefore didn't make specific accusations of doping against any one individual - it is clear that he would vouch for a rethink of the WADA Code in this area.

He is a former Head of Research for the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and now works as Consultant of the Minister of Social Affairs in Italy.

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