Barista competitions are on their way to being a fully legitimized sport, with global sponsorship packages, celebrity superstars, and now, at last, whispers of a performance-enhancing drug scandal. And what’s the PED of choice for the barista looking for an edge? No, it’s not steroids or human growth hormone (though perhaps growing a third arm would be beneficial in competition). It’s beta-blockers.

Beta-blockers are generally prescribed by a doctor to help lower a high blood pressure, and they work by blocking the effects of adrenaline. Used in competition, it would help calm the jacked up barista who is too shaky to serve a milkie to a judge without spilling it. So unless you’re Billy Costigan, beta-blockers would probably help your barista routine.

There have been rumors of beta-blocker usage by competitors for years now, but those rumors are swirling something fierce now in 2017. A new article out today by Full Court Press Coffee titled “Are We In The WBC’s Juiced Era” is certainly not shying away from the topic, and by drawing comparisons to Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong—two of the sporting world’s most notorious PED users—it could be argued that they are leaning into it.

The article does not name names, give concrete examples of usage, or even quote baristas who have used and are willing to speak out anonymously. But it does state two thing MUST happen:

Firstly the WCE must act quickly. Its [sic] not acceptable for them to stand pat and hope that this will blow over. It wont. [sic] They must get out in front of this brewing crisis and show leadership.


Secondly, we must not rush to judge those who are current competitors or who have competed in the past. As always we must keep our trust until proved other wise. [sic]

Have competitors used beta-blockers before? Totally possible. Will they have an advantage over a competitor equally prone to the shakes? It would appear so, yes. Has anyone ever been caught or fessed up to using them? Not to our knowledge. We love a good rumor-fueled hot take (and have issued a few in our day), but right now this whole dialogue basically amounts to someone shouting: “HEY BARISTAS, IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW, USE BETA-BLOCKERS TO HELP WITH THE SHAKES.”

Sprudge wants to know more. If you have evidence of barista competitors using performance enhancing drugs—or you yourself are a competitor who’s done a bit of juicing—please get in touch with us. Email or contact us directly via social media. Anonymity guaranteed in perpetuity, all rumors evaluated (but not all rumors taken seriously).

By the way, if you’re looking for a real doping scandal, you need to start giving out pee tests to the Sprudge Live barista competition coverage booth. Uppers, downers, lefties, righties, inside-outers, gummy-yummies—we’re doing all of ‘em. Anything to get through those Super Regionals.

Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.

*top image via University of Missouri-Kansas City

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