Doping in sports..


Doping is defined by the IOC as the use of any method or substance that might harm the athlete, in a quest to gain an unfair advantage, over his or her fellow competitors.

Hence, training at altitude to increase the bloods ability to carry oxygen is allowed, but the use of drugs such as EPO, to achieve the same result isn’t.

Recent controversy in Le Tour de France, and the Atlanta games of 1996, have shown the use of doping to be wide spread. However, doping isn’t a new trend bought on by the advent of modern pharmaceutical agents. History shows that athletes in the ancient Olympic games, were willing to take plant extracts in a bid to better their competitors.

Rigorous testing procedures have shown many notable athletes to be trying to “beat the system” by taking such drugs, most notably, Ben Johnson, in 1988 who won the 100m sprint in a new world record time of 9.79s, only to test positive for steroids, and lose his gold medal and world record.

Types of Doping.

Doping can be split up into physical methods, such as blood doping and the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Performance enhancing drugs can be catorized into the following types;

1. Stimulants, such as amphetamines,

2. anabolic steroids, such as nandrolone,

3. diuretics, to help lower body weight,

4. And blood doping agents, such as EPO.



Stimulants is a name given to several groups of drugs that tend to increase alertness and physical activity. The groups include pharmaceuticals such as amphetamines and the street drugs such as cocaine, and even caffeine.
The stimulant most commonly abused by athletes, are amphetamines. Amphetamines are sometimes prescribed by physicians, often to counter the effects of narcolepsy; their availability makes them prime candidates for misuse.

Amphetamines increase alertness and physical ability, by increasing the heart and respiration rates, increasing blood pressure, and decreasing appetite. Useful for athletes where power to weight ratios are important, such as power lifting, and even gymnastics.

Side effects include anxiety, blurred vision, sleeplessness, and dizziness. Abuse of amphetamines can cause irregular heartbeat and even physical collapse.

Amphetamines are psychologically addictive. Users become dependent on the drug to avoid the “down” feeling they often experience when the drug’s effect wears off. This dependence can lead a user to turn to stronger stimulants such as cocaine, or to larger doses of amphetamines to maintain a “high”.

Brolamphetamine, a common amphetamine.

Caffeine, a mild stimulant, is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world. It is present in soft drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate and numerous prescription and over-the-counter drugs, it can also be bought over-the-counter in tablet form.. It increases norepinephrine secretion and enhances neural activity in numerous brain areas. Tolerance occurs rapidly to the stimulating effects of caffeine.

Caffeine, (most people’s pick-me-up).

Erythropoietin – EPO.

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone produced by the kidney that promotes the formation of red blood cells by the bone marrow. The resultant rise in red cells increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

The kidney cells that make EPO are specialized so that they are sensitive to low oxygen levels in the blood coming into the kidney. These cells make and release EPO when the oxygen level is too low.

EPO is a protein, with an attached sugar (a glycoprotein). It is one of a number of similar glycoproteins that serve as stimulants for the growth of specific types of blood cells.

Normal levels of EPO are 0 to 19 (some say up to 24) mU/ml (milliunits per milliliter). Higher levels might indicate that an athlete has been abusing EPO for a competitive advantage.

EPO has been misused as a performance- enhancing drug in aerobic sports such as cycling (in the Tour de France), long-distance running, speed skating, and Nordic (cross-country) skiing. When misused in such situations, EPO is thought to be especially dangerous (perhaps because dehydration due to vigorous exercise can further increase the thickness (viscosity) of the blood, raising the risk for heart attacks and strokes. EPO has been banned by the Tour, the Olympics, and other sports organizations.

Anabolic Steroids.


Anabolic-androgenic steroids are man-made substances related to male sex hormones. “Anabolic” refers to muscle-building, and “androgenic” refers to increased masculine characteristics. “Steroids” refers to the class of drugs. These drugs are available legally only by prescription, to treat conditions that occur when the body produces abnormally low amounts of testosterone, such as delayed puberty and some types of impotence. They are also used to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases that result in
loss of lean muscle mass. Abuse of anabolic steroids, however, can lead to serious health problems, some irreversible.

Athletes and body builders abuse anabolic steroids to enhance performance and improve physical appearance. Anabolic steroids are taken orally or injected, typically in cycles of weeks or months (referred to as “cycling”), rather than continuously. Cycling involves taking multiple doses of steroids over a specific period of time, stopping for a period, and starting again. In addition, users often combine several different types of steroids to maximize their effectiveness while minimizing negative effects (referred to as “stacking”).

Health Hazards

The major side effects from abusing anabolic steroids can include liver tumors and cancer, jaundice (yellowish pigmentation of skin, tissues, and body fluids), fluid retention, and high blood pressure. In addition, there are some gender-specific side effects:

For men–shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts, increased risk for prostate cancer.

For women–growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, deepened voice.

For adolescents–growth halted prematurely through premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes. This means that adolescents risk remaining short the remainder of their lives if they take anabolic steroids before the typical adolescent growth spurt.

Research has also shown that aggression and other psychiatric side effects may result from abuse of anabolic steroids. Many users report feeling good about themselves while on anabolic steroids, but extreme mood swings also can occur, including manic-like symptoms leading to violence, leading to the coining of the phrase “Roid-rage”.

Steroids commonly abused by athletes include nandrolone, oxandrolone, and stanozolol, the structures of nandrolone and testosterone, its natural counterpart, are shown below.

Nandrolone (above) and testosterone (above right), notice that the only difference is only one methyl group.



Diuretics are drugs which increase the amount of fluid excreted by the kidneys. They do this by inhibiting the re-absorption of water in the kidney.

Diuretics are used by sportsmen and women to decrease body weight, to increase power to weight ratios and to help qualify for certain weight categories, eg boxing and judo. By taking diuretics, the athletes run the risk of severe dehydration and even gout. Other side effects include potassium deficiency, leading to muscle cramps, if a potassium sparing diuretic isn’t used.

Web references.

International Olympic Committee, (IOC)

Yahoo news!

Roche Pharmaceuticals

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