Players at the last two World Cups took an average of nearly two legal medications or nutritional supplements per game, according to FIFA-funded research published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. FIFA doctors found that "some players took a cocktail of up to 10 substances at once," reports the AP.
The report, compiled from around 2,950 team doctors from 32 countries during the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, said that among the medications taken were painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin, muscle relaxants, injected anesthetics, anti-allergy pills and dietary supplements.
Dr. Jiri Dvorak, FIFA's chief medical officer, and his colleagues wrote in the report that it raised questions "as to whether the medication was taken solely for therapeutic reasons."
But Dvorak doesn't think athletes were benefiting from an on-field boost after taking the medicines. "There is absolutely no scientific proof that you would get any kind of enhancement from the substances listed in the survey," Dvorak said. "I am more concerned that the figures indicated there is an excessive prescription by team physicians for adults who are essentially healthy."
The AP quotes an independent expert as saying he is not convinced that the legal drug cocktails were benign, and also cites a U.S. study as showing "that in older men and women, daily doses of ibuprofen or acetaminophen over three months helped them increase their muscle mass during weightlifting sessions." Other doctors are worried about the long term side-effects from regularly taking the legal medicines.