Since ancient times Ayurveda has been used to cure various ailments. However, in the present day and age, its use has been deemed dangerous to sportsmen due to the lack of monitoring of the ingredients that go into the preparation of Ayurvedic medicines. Cases of sportsmen who were tested positive for performance enhancing drugs after receiving Ayurvedic treatment sprung up last year, prompting the Sri Lanka Anti-Doping Agency (SLADA) to start preparations on running tests on such medicines. Nevertheless, Ayurvedic professors stand by their practice and deny the fact that harmful substances are included in the medication and claim that their natural ingredients are the the safest and most effective type of treatment.
Professor Arjuna de Silva, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Anti-Doping Agency, said that although the rubbing oil and massaging in Ayurvedic treatment is acceptable it is dangerous for a sportsperson to take Ayurvedic medicine for many reasons. First of all we do not know what exactly goes into these medicines. Secondly, you can get contaminated and also banned substances in these medicines and be open to doping allegations.”
He added,”The problem with Ayurvedic medicine is that there is no indication of what goes into its production. Unlike in Western medicine users are not made aware of side effects of Ayurvedic medicines. Since anti doping has become a big issue our general advise to sportsmen is to avoid Ayurvedic medicines as much as possible.”
Professor de Silva confirmed the occurrence of cases where sportsmen were tested positive for performance enhancing substances after receiving Ayurvedic treatment.
Confirming the reports that tests run on Ayurvedic medicine used by sportsmen are being planned, Professor de Silva said, “We are waiting to get the equipment needed. As soon as it is received we will begin running the tests to check whether performance enhancing or banned substances are present in Ayurvedic medicines.”
Speaking of the awareness measures taken on the subject, he said,“Through islandwide education, media and advertising we are spreading awareness on the types of medication sportsmen should avoid. And through educating sports doctors we ensure they are directed to take the proper medicine.”
He added that Ayurvedic treatment is quite widely sought out by sportsmen more so in athletics than in cricket.
Professor de Silva encourages people with any doubts to contact SLADA or visit their website adding that there are plans to establish a hot line this year in order to provide people to have a place to contact with their questions 24 hours a day.
According to Professor Amarasinghe, Ayurveda greatly contributes towards the well being of sportsmen, “For example, in the prevention of sports injuries, enhancement of nutrition, in the improvement of psychological issues in [performance] there are many natural herbs available to Ayurvedic physicians. There are other herbs which can be used to increase energy levels and help in stress management.”
“The use of Ayurvedic treatment is complex. And they are administered depending on the type of situation or injury faced by the patient. A special kind of body-type identification , called prakruti, is done and according to the body type of a person specific herbs are selected in the treatment. Before giving medication for injury prevention a sportsman’s dietary habits are observed and exercises such as yoga are advised in order to keep them mentally fit.”
He went on to say that Ayurveda is improving in Sri Lanka as there are degrees and special courses available in the field. He cited the BSc Special Degree Programme in Sports Science conducted at the Jayewardenepura University as an example.
Expressing his opinion on the suspicions directed towards banned substances in Ayurvedic drugs given to sportsmen, Professor Amarasinghe said,”There are many types of herbs available such as ginseng and ashwagandha, tibulus terretis and other combinations of herbs to treat injuries some of which have the ability to enhance performance levels. However, such herbs are not mixed into medicines given to sportsman. In Ayurvedic preparations there are no artificial chemicals or western medicines included. Sportsmen who seek Ayurvedic treatment also follow other treatments and take medicines that are commercially available.
Thus, when tests are run on such athletes, they are tested positive for performance enhancing substances. And the blame falls on Ayurvedic medicines. Ayurvedic medicine is not harmful but it could be harmful if taken with other medications or stimulants.”
He also said that Ayurvedic the medicines can be easily investigated as there is full transparency with the ingredients that go into them.
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