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Codeine Information

Following the commencement of safety testing to detect illicit drug use at CAMS permitted meetings, CAMS is issuing this general information about the risks associated with taking medications containing codeine.

Codeine use has been detected by the drug screening devices used by CAMS’s drug testing representatives because it derives from the ‘opiate’ drug class (opiates being one of the five detectable drug classes). Since the safety testing policy was implemented on 24 July, 10 per cent of drug screens have returned a ‘positive’ reading for the opiate drug class, all of which were as a result of codeine use. 

Codeine can cause potentially dangerous side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness and nausea and it is for this reason that medications containing codeine have warnings on the packaging stating that it may not be safe to drive a motor vehicle or operate machinery whilst taking codeine.  Examples of common codeine medications that can be purchased either over the counter or with a prescription include Panadeine Forte, Nurofen Plus and Codral ‘Cold & Flu’.

Safety testing has been implemented so that CAMS can fulfil its duty of care to all motor sport participants and spectators to provide the safest possible environment at motor sport events. By virtue of this duty of care, any competitor or official that returns a ‘positive’ drug screen for one of the detectable drug classes may be excluded from the meeting at which safety testing is being conducted.

In the event of a ‘positive’ drug screen reading for the opiate class (which includes codeine) the CAMS Motor Sport Safety Coordinator will commence an onsite investigation to determine the likely cause of the reading and, in accordance with the safety testing policy, will ultimately decide the course of action, which, could result in the competitor or official being excluded from the meeting. This investigation is required so that CAMS can determine if the ‘positive’ reading is likely to have been caused by a legal or illicit drug – for example codeine use and heroin use will both cause a ‘positive’ reading for the opiate class.

Following the investigation, if there is insufficient evidence to show that codeine has been used or if there is reason to believe that the individual is impaired by side effects caused by codeine use, exclusion from the meeting is a possibility.

To protect themselves from being excluded from a meeting if using codeine, competitors and officials can apply for a medical exemption if they have a need to use the medication for a medical purpose.  Application forms are available from the Illicit Drugs in Sport page on the CAMS website and must be completed and signed by both the applicant and an AHPRA registered health practitioner before being submitted to CAMS for approval prior to participating in a meeting.

In addition to applying for a medical exemption, competitors and officials using codeine are encouraged to bring their receipts, prescriptions and even the medication itself with them to meetings to assist with the onsite investigation by CAMS.

Advice for competitors and officials is to expect safety testing at any CAMS permitted meeting and if taking medication containing codeine, be prepared for the possibility of exclusion from the meeting if you return a ‘positive’ reading for the opiate drug class without an approved medical exemption.

For further information about safety testing and/or obtaining a medical exemption, please email or phone 03 9593 7700 and ask to speak with the Motor Sport Safety Coordinator.  General information about CAMS Illicit Drugs in Sport (Safety Testing) Policy, including the testing procedure is available on the CAMS website