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Adderall on rise

Seattle’s Brandon Browner reportedly faces a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. (Associated Press)
Seattle’s Brandon Browner reportedly faces a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. (Associated Press)

Use of ADHD drug growing issue in sports

RENTON, Wash. – A new word has been added to the pro football lexicon, one that is threatening to become as nettlesome to the NFL’s image as “Bountygate.”

That word is Adderall, the amphetamine that keeps cropping up in the league’s drug suspensions, and which now has allegedly touched the Seahawks.

Their starting cornerbacks, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, face four-game suspensions for reportedly testing positive for a banned substance, identified in multiple reports as Adderall.

The players deny using anything illegal, but the increasing nexus between Adderall – a drug commonly prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – and the NFL has become impossible to ignore.

At least 10 players have been linked to the stimulant in the past two years, though that number might be misleading. The NFL, by virtue of a confidentiality provision in its contract with the NFL union, never discloses the substance involved in a violation. That has led to suspicions that some players or their representatives claim Adderall use because there is less stigma attached than to other banned substances, such as anabolic steroids.

“It is the excuse of the day, because there is no transparency in the NFL,” one official in another sport said.

Still, it seems undeniable that the use of Adderall is on the rise, and not just in the NFL. Just Tuesday, Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz received a 25-game suspension for using Adderall. NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger also has been connected to the drug.

The potential lure becomes obvious when Dr. Gary Wadler, past chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List Committee, begins listing off the benefits of Adderall to an athlete.

“It masks fatigue, masks pain, increases arousal – like being in The Zone,” begins Wadler, currently an associate professor of medicine at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.

“It increases alertness, aggressiveness, attention and concentration. It improves reaction time, especially when fatigued. Some think it enhances hand-eye coordination. Some believe it increases the mental aspects of performance.”

It’s no wonder that Wadler calls Adderall “one of the quintessential performance-enhancing drugs. There’s no question it’s a performance- enhancing drug.”

Adderall has been banned by virtually every sports organization, from the NCAA to MLB to the NFL.

Dr. Charles Yesalis, a professor emeritus of Health Policy and Administration & Kinesiology, at Penn State, perhaps provided a glimpse into why players use it.

“On an athletic field, at the elite level, even a 1 percent difference, which we very frequently couldn’t measure in the lab, is a big deal,” he said. “It’s a game of inches, right?”

And, for the NFL, a vexing issue.