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JAAF Cracking Down on Iron Injection Abuse, to Require Blood Testing at National High School Ekiden

On Dec. 19 it was learned that the JAAF is formulating guidelines to be released next spring that strongly urge coaches and athletes to refrain from taking the iron injections that are believed to be common practice at some top high schools to enhance their athletes' performances in the name of treatment for anemia. The JAAF will encourage other anemia treatments such as taking iron supplements orally.

Accumulation of iron in the body can have a negative impact on physical health, including damage to the liver. The JAAF has previously requested coaches refrain from resorting to injections, but as the practice continues as a method of performance enhancement the JAAF is determined to take a stronger position. The determination of whether an iron injection is necessary or not is currently left to the judgment of an athletes' doctor. From now on the facile use of iron injections, even in the name of therapeutic use, will be restricted to severe cases of anemia where oral intake is not practical.

On Dec. 20 the JAAF plans to explain its policy in a meeting with major organizations including the National High School Physical Education Federation, the Japan Junior High School Physical Education Federation, and university and corporate league groups. It will distribute guidelines outlining the risks of iron injections and the nature of exceptional cases in which their use can be exempted for therapeutic use beginning next spring. JAAF director Mitsugi Ogata commented, "We thought it would be enough to ask people to stop, but as the practice has continued we must work together with doctors to eliminate its abuse." Beginning in 2019 the JAAF also plans to require blood test results from athletes participating in the National High School Ekiden Championships.

In line with the JAAF's direction, on Dec. 18 the Kyoto Prefectural Medical Association issued a directive to medical institutions within the prefecture not to perform iron injections upon high school athletes ahead of the Dec. 23 National High School Ekiden Championships to be held in Kyoto and urged the Kyoto Prefectural Sports Association and Athletics Association to provide coaches with accurate information on the injections' dangers. The directive told doctors that iron injections can cause a shock reaction in the short term and cirrhosis of the liver in the long term and said, "Along with debasing the principle of safe, fair and ethical sport, this practice is also a serious violation of insurance regulations."

More background on this story here.

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translated and edited by Brett Larner

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