Furosemide Use in Sport

  • Integrity Blog

Children’s involvement in sport is generally motivated by curiosity, play and the development of social and physical skills which can aid them throughout their lives.

Those who demonstrate exceptional or innate talent will often excel to compete professionally within their sport and while these opportunities bring with them the honour and pride of competing at the highest levels, it can also bring undue pressure and influence.

These influences were the catalyst for the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) investigation into the growing trends of doping among minor athletes known as Operation Refuge [PDF 2.1MB].

The investigation found that since 2012 there were over 1,500 positive tests to Prohibited Substances against 1,416 minors.

Of these positive results one of the most detected substances was a diuretic called Furosemide.

Furosemide is classified as an S5 Diuretic and Masking Agent by WADA and is Prohibited at all times (In and Out-of-Competition).

What is Furosemide?

Furosemide is prescribed as a diuretic or water tablet, usually for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure, kidney disease and fluid retention.

It works by increasing urine production in the body to reduce blood pressure and fluid retention.

Why is Furosemide banned?

As a diuretic, Furosemide is banned for two reasons.

  1. It can be used to reduce weight amongst athletes. In sports where weight is a factor in competing or where having a lower weight may create an advantage (boxing, weightlifting, skating etc).
  2. As Furosemide causes increased urine production it can be used to flush the system of other Prohibited Substances prior to a doping control test. To this point, the Operation Refuge investigation found that Furosemide is always detected alone (no other substances are detected).

All Prohibited Substances are added to the Prohibited List because they meet at least two of the three following criteria:

  • Use of the substance has the potential to enhance or enhances performance.
  • Use of the substance represents an actual or potential health risk to the Athlete; and
  • Use of the substance violates the spirit of sport.

What are the health risks of using Furosemide?

Adverse effects associated with the prescribed use of Furosemide are:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Liver disease
  • Acute kidney injury
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Allergic reaction.

Additionally, if Furosemide is abused and used at higher doses:

  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Low blood pressure.

Operation Refuge reported that Furosemide was the highest Prohibited Substance detected amongst both male and female minor athletes with the youngest athlete to receive a sanction for an Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) being just 12 years old.

Athletes face a ban of up to four years if they test positive to a Prohibited Substance.

Resources and Education

Sport Integrity Australia offers the following eLearning courses the keep athletes and sports up to date with Anti-Doping Rules, Prohibited Substances and Child Safeguarding.

  • Anti-Doping Fundamentals Course
  • Annual Update 2024 Course
  • Safeguarding Children and Young People in Sport Induction Course

All of the above courses can be completed after logging in or registering on the Sport Integrity Australia eLearning website. All courses can be found on the eLearning course catalogue page

The Australian Institute of Sport has created a Best Practice Policy for Weight Management [PDF 626KB].

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