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Performance enhancing drug

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Performance enhancing drugs are substances that enhance the performance of athletes. They are used to lose or gain weight, increase strength and speed, mask pain from injuries, and allow athletes to train longer and harder. The use of steroids dates back to Ancient Greece, but today many performance enhancing drugs are illegal and athletes that are caught risk lifetime suspension from professional competition. As sports become more competitive, athletes are often tempted to gain a competitive edge by using illicit substances. Many simply allow a temporary fix, but over time they are extremely harmful to the body, and can even result in death.


100 grams of caffeine powder

Performance enhancing drugs have been classified into different categories by anti-doping organizations. They are classified by how they effect a persons body. The major classifications include: lean mass builders, stimulants, pain killers, diuretics, and masking drugs. [1]


Stimulants are drugs that temporarily improve a persons mental or physical performance. Stimulants help to enhance the peripheral nervous system and central nervous system. Some examples of stimulants are: caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine. Stimulants raise blood pressure and increase the users heart rate. [2] [3] Amphetamines, also known as speed, stimulates the central nervous system and increases alertness and concentration. It decreases the user's appetite and feeling of fatigue, making them feel an increase in energy levels. The structure of amphetamines is very similar to adrenaline, which is naturally produced in the human body. It has similar effects to that of cocaine but amphetamines last longer. It is often used a prescription for people with Attention Deficit Disorder. Risks of abusing amphetamines include inattention, restlessness, a increase in a persons reaction time, and poor balance. A major risk for athletes is that the drug may block the warning signs of an injury and could lead them to further injuring themselves. [4]

Pain Killers

Oxycodone pain killers

Athletes who are training hard and are at risk for injury may take pain killers to mask their injuries. Some examples are: narcotics, protein hormones, cortisone and local anesthetics. Narcotics are used to treat the symptoms of pain. Three major narcotics are morphine, methadone and heroin. These substances are addictive and users that take them impair their judgment and concentration. A protein hormone called adrenocorticotrophic is naturally produced in the human body. It is secreted by the pituitary gland and increases the bodies production of hormones from the adrenal cortex. These hormones reduce inflammation in injuries. By taking extra adrenocorticotrophic a person would mask the pain of an injury. The long-term effects of taking this substance is a weakening of the muscles and bones. Cortisone is also created in the adrenal cortex and has the same effects as adrenocorticotrophic. Anethetics such as novocaine, procaine, lidocaine, and lignocaine temporarily mask the pain of injuries. [5]


Diuretics are drugs that change a person's balance of electolytes (fluids and salts) and can lead to dehydration. Athletes such as wrestlers use this drug to help expel water from their body so they can compete in a lower weight class. Diuretics dilute urine which can help athletes pass drug tests. [6] Examples of diuretics are: benzthiazide, acetazolamide, spironolactone, dichlorphenamide, and furosemide. When taken in high doses, long-term side effects may occur, such as potassium deficiency, heart problems, muscle cramps, fatigue, and an inability to control body temperature. [7]

Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are classified as lean mass builders because they increase a person's muscle and overall body mass. It also helps reduce fat.[1] It does this by stimulating the cells in the bones and muscles to make more protein. It allows a person to work out harder for longer periods of time. These steroids can be taken in a pill or injected and help the body to increase muscle growth. Example of anabolic steroids include testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone, clostebol, and nandrolone. The results of taking these substance is potential liver damage and mood swings. The liver can be damaged because the drugs are broken down in the liver. A person may have major mood swings such as depression and aggression because the drugs effect different parts of the brain. [8]

Drugs in Sports

Performance enhancing drugs are used by some athletes to become bigger or leaner, faster, stronger, and increase a persons stamina. The use of these drugs in sports allow athletes to compete at higher levels and more competitively. Steroids are not only used in professional sports, but also in high school, college and Olympic level sports. 15% of the top elite athletes take some sort of steroids to increase their performance. [9]


The illegal use of performance enhancing drugs at the college level gives some athletes a competitive edge. Drug testing done by the NCAA in 2002-03 resulted in 85 of 105 athletes testing positive for anabolic steroids. The following year, 46 of 72 athletes tested positive and in 2005, 51 of 106 athletes tested positive for anabolic steroids. The NCAA has seen a decrease in drug use over the years but drugs still remain a major issue. If an athlete is caught the first time they aren't allowed to play for a full year and they lose a year of eligibility. The second time they are caught they are banned from playing any college sports for the rest of their career. [10]


Bodybuilders that used steroids. Arnold Schwarzenegger & Franco Columbu at Muscle Beach, California (1970s).

Performance enhancing drugs are banned by all professional sports. Organizations have adopted strict anti-doping policies and do random testing to check for the use of steroids. Martial arts fighters are required to be tested before every fight. Steroids are used in many different professional sports such as football, baseball, swimming, cycling, bodybuilding, and weightlifting. [11] In 1991, major league baseball banned the use of performance enhancing drugs, but it wasn't until 2003 that they began testing. On November 15, 2005, the MLB set stricter penalties for steroid use including a 50 game suspension after being caught the first time. The second time, the athlete would receive a 100 game ban and if they tested positive a third time, they would receive a lifetime ban. [12] 9.1% of former NFL players admitted to using steroids during their career. 16.3% of offensive lineman and 14.8% of defensive lineman said that they used steroids. In the 1980s 20.3% of the National Football League athletes took steroids. That figure dropped to 12.7% in the 1990s. [13]


Performance enhancing drugs in the Olympics date back to Ancient Greece. Athletes would eat herbs and certain foods hoping that it would help them perform better. Some athletes went as far as eating crushed sheep testicles because of the testosterone it contained. In 1952 body builders began to use steroids to increase their strength. The Soviet Union was injecting their athletes with testosterone and the result was that they dominated the 1952 Olympics and also the World Weightlifting Championships. John Ziegler, the US team physician, developed a drug called Dianabol. In the 1960's Ziegler gave it to his athletes and they dominated in weightlifting. Dianabol was available to anyone including bodybuilders, football players, weightlifters, and Olympic athletes. The drug allowed athletes to train longer and harder. It also built muscle faster which helped increase a persons muscle power and strength. In 1968, after an official complaint was made about the use of steroids in sports, the International Olympic Council banned the use of performance enhancing drugs. After the ban was placed on steroids new drugs were developed that would not show up on tests. [9]

Masking drugs

Molecular structure of Testosterone
Molecular structure of Epitestosterone

Masking drugs cover up the use of performance enhancing drugs in the body. Examples of these drugs include: epitestosterone, plasma expanders and secretion inhibitors. Epitestosterone is a similar to testosterone but does not enhance the users performance. Drug tests for the use of testosterone to enhance performance usually measures the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone. If a person takes epitestosterone then they lower the ratio thus making it appear that the persons testosterone is normal.[14] Plasma expanders are used to treat people in shock and surgery by increasing the fluid part of the blood.[15][14] They are used to treat victims of shock, trauma and surgery. If a person taking drugs took this substance they would dilute the drugs in their blood. Secretion inhibitors block protein from removing drugs from the kidneys therefore not allowing drugs to show up in urine samples. Some drugs have similar structures to organic acids. Protein in the kidneys transports these organic acids out of the body. If the protein was stopped, then the drugs would not leave a person's body therefore not showing up in urine samples.[14]


Although performance enhancing drugs have temporary benefits such as becoming stronger or faster, long term there are serious side effects. The effects of taking steroids can, in some cases, be irreversible. The short term side effect consist of acne, oily skin, excess hair growth, and deepening voice. The long term and more serious side effects include:

[16] [6]

Children and teenagers that are not fully developed are at risk of stunting their growth, early puberty changes, and abnormal sexual development. Young girls that take steroids are likely to get severe acne, body and facial hair, deepening of their voice, disruption of their menstrual cycle, and permanent infertility.[16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Classes of Performance Enhancing Drugs By, 2008
  2. Stimulants Background By Krishna Divadeenam, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Kansas University Medical Center Contributor Information and Disclosures
  3. How Stimulants Effect your Athletic Performance By
  4. Amphetamines – Stimulants – Performance Enhancing Drugs By Elizabeth Quinn, Guide, December 06, 2009
  5. Performance-enhancing Drugs: Masking Pain By Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D., HowStuffWorks, Inc
  6. 6.0 6.1 Performance-enhancing drugs: Diuretics By the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER
  7. Stimulants Effect Athletic Performance: Diuretics By
  8. Anabolic Steriods: Building Mass and Strength By Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D., HowStuffWorks, Inc.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Performance Enhancing Drugs in Professional Sports By Kelli Simkus, Reliable
  10. Steroids in College Sports By Reisa Resource, Sports and Drugs, June 19th, 2008, CampusCompare
  11. Steroid use in professional sports By
  12. Steroids and Major League Baseball By Mitchell Grossman, Timothy Kimsey, Joshua Moreen, and Matthew Owings
  13. 1 in 10 Ex-NFL Players Used Steroids By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Performance-enhancing Drugs: Masking Drugs By Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D., HowStuffWorks, Inc.
  15. Plasma Expanders By Medical Dictionary, 2010 Farlex, Inc.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Short and Long-term effects of Steroids By Partnership for a Drug-Free America

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