The NCAA restriction on caf­feine riddles coaches and athletes.

The NCAA lists eight restricted drug classes con­cerning banned drugs, gives a few examples from each class, and then leaves the ath­letes and school ath­letic depart­ments to account for the rest – even stating that there is no com­plete list of banned substances.

Caf­feine falls under the stim­ulant class of banned sub­stances, and ath­letes will fail the test if they indicate above 14 micro­grams per mil­li­liter, a level which allows for common caf­feine con­sumption. Caf­feine is con­sidered a per­for­mance enhancer, and any level above that con­cen­tration is deemed a delib­erate attempt at doping.

But some­times ath­letes do not realize how their body processes caf­feine and then must deal with the reper­cus­sions of a failed drug test.

“It is very important to note that people metab­olize caf­feine at very dif­ferent rates,” said Lynne Neukom, ath­letic training program director. “Dif­fer­ences in metab­olism, med­ica­tions, and certain dis­eases may sig­nif­i­cantly alter the rate in which caf­feine is cleared from the body, so, we do not advocate their use. Ath­letes have tested pos­itive for caf­feine use; however, not in our ath­letic program. Some ath­letes [tested pos­itive] after ingesting only 350 mg.”

For com­parison, a 16 oz. Star­bucks coffee is about 350 mg. of caffeine.

The penalty for failing a drug test does not only affect the athlete’s eli­gi­bility, but also their drug-use record.

“It is imper­ative that the athlete fully com­pre­hends that if they fail an NCAA drug test, as admin­is­tered by Drug Free Sport, that this will carry over for the rest of their lives,” Neukom said. “When filling out a job appli­cation, they must indicate that they have failed a drug test.”

Head men’s track and field coach Jeff Forino said that the NCAA pro­hi­bition of caf­feine is a fair rule.

“Excess of any­thing alone is not good for you,” Forino said. “Caf­feine def­i­nitely does make you sharper, but I don’t believe it really makes your per­for­mance that much better, and the level of caf­feine that they are talking about is so high you would not feel good if you had that much in your body.”

Forino also said caf­feine may even be con­sidered a masking agent – another clas­si­fi­cation of banned drugs.

“A lot of people would take caf­feine to speed up the excretion of other drugs. [The NCAA] comes up with all the rules because people find ways around the rules. Half of the stuff that is banned by the NCAA is masking agents that would help you get rid of weight or excrete other drugs faster,” Forino said.

However, the restriction on caf­feine does not stop ath­letes from drinking energy drinks and con­suming caffeine.

Forino said he often sees his ath­letes drinking Monster energy drinks.

Senior Anthony Manno, a member of the bas­ketball team, said that he wouldn’t stop drinking coffee everyday either.

“[The coaches] just tell us to stay away from it. Obvi­ously, most don’t – I drink coffee everyday. It all depends on how your body processes it. From what I am told, if I drink too much coffee before one of our games, and I get tested right there, I could be over the legal amount and then be banned for a year,” Manno said.

Manno said the restriction does not affect ath­letes’ con­sumption of caf­feine and that many of his team­mates take 5‑Hour Energy shots, which contain about 200 mg. of caffeine.

“I don’t think that the banned sub­stances are really deterring anyone from taking stuff. In the big things, like steroids and human growth hormone, people aren’t going to be so quick to take that; but in the other things, like energy drinks and caf­feine, I don’t see how banning it will deter ath­letes,” Manno said. “It’s caf­feine – it’s a common, everyday thing in our culture, and it’s in every­thing – things that we drink, things that we eat.”