Pharmacists supporting athletes: a scoping review exploring the knowledge, role and responsibilities of pharmacists in preventing the unintentional use of prohibited substances by athletes

Int J Pharm Pract. 2022 May 26;30(2):108-115. doi: 10.1093/ijpp/riac010.


Background: Following the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999, the International Pharmacy Federation (FIP) published guidelines - The Role of the Pharmacist in the Fight against Doping in Sport (2014) - intended for implementation into national standards of practice, to clarify pharmacists' roles in supporting athletes. Despite 7 years since the publication of these guidelines, the extent of practice and knowledge regarding sport pharmacy remains unclear.

Objectives: To explore the literature to ascertain knowledge held by pharmacists and pharmacy students regarding anti-doping and to determine current/potential roles and responsibilities for pharmacists in the dissemination of information about, and the reduction in unintentional use of, prohibited substances by athletes.

Method: A literature search of five databases utilising terms such as athlete, performance-enhancing and pharmacist was undertaken. Relevant articles published since 1999 were searched for knowledge, roles and responsibilities of pharmacists.

Key findings: We identified 16 research studies outlining knowledge, as well as roles and responsibilities of pharmacists in assisting athletes. Pharmacists reportedly had limited knowledge of anti-doping organisations and prohibited substances. Roles identified included counselling, education, advice about prohibited substances and dispensing. Responsibilities included medication review and assisting athletes to avoid unintentional ingestion of prohibited substances.

Conclusion: Pharmacists, by training, can play a role in providing accurate medication-related information to athletes to avoid prohibited substances. Key barriers identified were pharmacists' lack of knowledge and the absence of guidelines articulating specific roles and responsibilities for pharmacists, highlighting the need for educational programmes and inclusion of specific responsibilities in national guidelines.

Keywords: antidoping; athlete; pharmacist; prohibited-substances; supplements.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Doping in Sports* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Pharmacists
  • Professional Role
  • Sports* / education
  • Students, Pharmacy*