The Olympics Used To Have A Very Specific Caffeine Rule

Caffeine seems like a harmless source of energy. It's the convenient life juice you depend on to get through a hectic day and a piling workload. It gives you the push you need to get out of bed every morning, the kick to power through a sluggish afternoon, and for many, it's the perfect end to a meal after a busy day.

So, it may come as a surprise that for the longest time, consuming too much caffeine was banned at the Olympics. As per the National Coffee Blog, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had banned high consumptions of caffeine at all Olympic events between 1984 and 2004. According to Men's Health, if any more than "12 micrograms per milliliter of caffeine" was detected in an Olympic athlete's urine, they could be removed from the games on the basis of doping. This means that drinking an extra cup of coffee or another can of soda could very well get an athlete banned from competing.

Although caffeine is part of the average person's daily routine, caffeine was one of the many drugs on WADA's prohibition list for two decades and continues to be on the agency's watch list as of 2018.

Caffeine is still on WADA's watch list

To understand why the consumption of caffeine was banned for Olympic athletes, it's important to understand the effect caffeine can have on an athlete's body. According to Bustle, caffeine is particularly popular amongst runners, as it can increase muscle power and endurance. Much like students drinking coffee to concentrate better while writing an end-of-term paper, caffeine can help athletes focus, improve reaction time, and provide a burst of energy.

In 2004, WADA found that caffeine no longer met two out of its three criteria for the prohibition of a drug (via National Coffee Blog). The ban was lifted, Men's Health reports, after it was concluded that "performance-enhancing doses of caffeine were practically indistinguishable from everyday use." Plus, caffeine is far more socially acceptable and nowhere as serious as many other substances on WADA's prohibition list. 

Another problem WADA faced was that people metabolize caffeine at different rates. Therefore, a blanket threshold would not be a fair basis on which to judge an athlete's pattern of caffeine intake. Despite this, caffeine is still on WADA's "monitoring list" which means that its use will regularly be studied and the possibility of it moving back onto the prohibition list is not entirely off the cards.