SHIMADA, Shizuoka Prefecture--A pharmacist here developed a card game that warns athletes against ruining their careers by unknowingly consuming banned substances in over-the-counter medicine or dietary supplements.

The “Doping Guardian” playing cards, created by Masayuki Shimizu, 35, urge athletes to seek experts’ advice before taking such products.

The game has already been introduced at sports facilities and educational institutes across the country.

Players can experience how an act of carelessness can lead to doping accusations and the end of a sports career.

The game is played by two to five participants who compete as “athletes” while battling injuries and diseases.

Each player shows a total of 10 cards in rotation with the objective of gaining points.

While the “training” card adds points, the “injury” card will reduce the number of points already obtained.

A “drug” card nullifies point reduction effects, while a “supplement” card doubles the player’s score.

Players can be disqualified at the end of the game, even if they have the highest score, if they had used drugs or supplements shown in five “prohibited drug” cards.

Shimizu was designated by the Japan Anti-Doping Agency in 2012 as a “sports pharmacist” and is well-versed in doping issues and relevant regulations. He offers lessons about the subject for students and athletes who have full-time jobs.

But he felt that those who take his lessons do not fully understand what he teaches because he often uses technical terms.

Athletes often ask him about medicines only after they have taken such agents that might contain banned substances.

“I was thinking of what to do to make sports players feel more familiar with the issue of doping so that they will more actively ask experts for advice,” Shimizu said.

Through talks with a game maker in Shizuoka, Shimizu decided to create a product “full of entertainment elements that will allow people to play it by themselves.”

He kept the card illustrations and the rules of the game simple.

The “doping guardian” card representing pharmacists was adopted to enable players to check two of the prohibited drug cards that are placed face down.

All of those gimmicks were aimed at encouraging athletes to contact drug experts in advance.

Around 500 units of the game have been sold since its release in April last year.

Shimizu has organized game-playing sessions for health-care providers and sports trainers in Fukuoka and Hyogo prefectures and elsewhere in Japan.


The rugby club at Setsunan University in Osaka Prefecture joined the top league this year and is now subjected to doping tests.

In May this year, Kazuhide Nakahara, 40, a lecturer at the university’s faculty of pharmacy, used the card game in an anti-doping program involving 100 rugby club members.

“The rugby players apparently enjoyed the entertainment, and a foundation was established for them to share their problems more easily,” Nakahara said.

During the event, a club member asked whether a pollen allergy medicine he was using was prohibited, according to university officials.

Shimizu said he expects his invention to help athletes as interest grows on the issue of doping in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

“I want to offer an opportunity to create an environment that provides support for all athletes no matter where they are,” he said.