UKAD issues winter holiday travel guide for athletes

Before we know it, Christmas will be upon us – you only need to walk around town centres to see the lights going up and decorations in the shop windows. Whether you’re travelling for training, visiting friends and family or going on holiday over the festive season (if you’re lucky enough!), if you’re an athlete, this can bring additional considerations with regards to medications and possible hazards to be aware of.

UKAD has put together a five-step guide to help you continue to train and compete clean throughout winter.

1. Check all medications

There’s a reason we share this message a lot – it’s an oldie but a goodie as the saying goes! If you need to purchase any medications abroad, please make sure to check them on Global DRO. Sometimes the ingredients within medications in different countries can vary, even if the branding and packaging appears the same (for example, a cold and flu medication may have a different name in the UK than on the slopes in Canada). Global DRO is a reliable source for checking medications in the UK, United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Switzerland and recently added to the list - New Zealand! Where possible, it may be best to take medication with you from the UK, when you are travelling outside of these countries. If you are purchasing medications in a country not listed, please consult with your medical team or contact UKAD if you have any concerns. Alternatively, you’re able to search for the individual ingredients on Global DRO.

Please note, if you are travelling from 1 January 2020 onwards, ensure you re-check the status of all medications, even if you checked them in December, as the 2020 WADA Prohibited List goes live on 1 January, and Global DRO is also updated on 1 January 2020 to reflect the changes to the list.

2. Take medications and supporting documents in hand luggage

Any medications you need to take with you on holiday should be kept in your hand luggage, in case hold luggage is lost or delayed. You are allowed to carry both essential medicines of more than 100ml, including liquid dietary foodstuffs and inhalers, and medical equipment, if it’s essential for your journey. You will need supporting documentation from a relevant medical professional (for example a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription).

3. Pack powdered supplements in hold luggage

UKAD always advises athletes take a food-first approach to nutrition. However, should you require supplements as part of your nutritional programme, it’s best to pack them in your hold luggage. Advice on the gov.uk website states powders and food products can obstruct images on x-ray machines, meaning your bags may need to be checked again manually by security and could cause delays.

4. Track any emergency medications

Athletes may in the course of emergency treatment (e.g. surgery or an A&E admission) be provided with drugs or methods which are prohibited in sport. If you require emergency treatment or medication while abroad, please ensure that you and your travelling companions are aware to ask the medical practitioner for a copy of your drugs chart and all treatment records, prior to being discharged. It may be a good idea to take a card explaining you are an athlete and that you require this information, written in the native language of the country you are visiting, and have this on you at all times. More advice on emergency medications can be found below.

Emergency meds

5. Beware of contaminated meats

In the past few years, it has been demonstrated that there may be a risk of ingesting prohibited substance clenbuterol through contaminated meats in certain countries, particularly China and Mexico. Meats most likely to be at risk include: Offal (including products such as pate), processed meat (salami, sausages etc), pork, beef, chicken and raw and uncooked meats. Keep this in mind if you’re indulging in a delicious Christmas feast!

Tips for Athletes travelling to countries with known problems:

  • Be aware of the risks posed

  • Plan a nutrition strategy prior to travel.

  • The English Institute of Sport (EIS) recommends; eating a wide variety of food to reduce the risk, if eating meat choose modest portions (e.g. avoid servings of more than 100g or 4oz), include one to two vegetarian protein-based meals a week, seek clarification of the supply of products.

  • Seek reassurances from national/international federations (where possible) about reputable places to eat

Try to eat organic meat that is traceable back to the source if meat consumption is necessary. We would also consider the following actions whilst travelling:

  • Record where and when meat is eaten when residing in these locations

  • Record the type and amount of meat eaten on each occasion

  • Keep a record of all receipts