It seems Adderall abuse is no longer the sole province of overachieving teenagers and the overachieving 20- and 30-somethings they grow into. The “study drug” (as the New York Times is so fond of calling it) is becoming a performance enhancer of choice for athletes, too. This week alone, two professional athletes — Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden and NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger — have come into trouble for illegally using the ADHD med. In the past few years, at least half a dozen pro football players have been suspended for testing Adderall positive, including Green Bay Packers defensive Mike Neal in June and New York Giants safety Tyler Sash in July.
Because it’s a stimulant, Adderall–which is actually just the brand name for a specific cocktail of amphetamine salts–is banned by the NFL unless a player has a valid prescription. It’s also on the list of banned substances for the NCAA (the group that governs college sports), NASCAR, the UFC and most other sports organizations.
The theory is that–like steroids or other amphetamines–Adderall gives athletes an unfair advantage. ”In a sports setting, it parlays into an increased ability to work out harder,” Rick Figler, a sports medicine physician, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Or if they’re going through testing to perform testing better; if they’re studying a playbook to memorize the playbook. It’s absolutely a performance-enhancing agent.”
Increased ability “to memorize the playbook” strikes me as a pretty weak enhancement, but hey, to each his own.
NASCAR’s Allmendinger claims he didn’t even know he’d taken Adderall; a friend gave him the pill and told him it was a workout supplement. Two days later, he was randomly tested at the racetrack–a test which subsequently came up positive for an amphetamine. Allmendinger told ESPN that he does not abuse Adderall and had only taken it that once. NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said the organization doesn’t know the specific substance Allmendinger took; testing only reveals the presence of an amphetamine, not the brand or type.
That ambiguity is what makes this whole Adderall and athletics business so complicated. But as Barry Petchesky from Deadspin writes, “there’s no way for us to tell Adderall from greenies or meth or any other form of amphetamines in a drug test.” In other words, Adderall might not be the hot new performance enhancing drug but simply the hot new excuse for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. At least that would explain why a major league football player can’t manage to get a valid prescription for something every third high school student can.
Photo: CU Independent