Sport Enhancing Drugs
The use of sport enhancing substances has been around for a very long time. Many athletes may feel pressured into using them simply because sports have become so competitive, often involving large amount of money, so they feel they need every possible edge over other athletes.
These substances can include stimulants, beta blockers, narcotic analgesics, diuretics, anabolic steroids, blood doping, and human growth hormone.
Stimulants increases alertness, reduce fatigue, increases competitiveness, and sometimes hostility. However, this can also lead to loss of judgment which can lead to injury to others or to self.
Narcotic Analgesics are drugs derived from opium or made synthetically. They are primarily used to manage pain. However, there is a high risk of dependence.
Beta Blockers enhances steadiness, which is important in sports like archery and fencing. These drugs promote relaxation of blood vessels, which in turn slows the heart rate and decreases contractility of heart muscle which finally decreases cardiac output.
diuretics cause the kidneys excrete of potassium and water, by decreasing the resorption of salt. This results in the elimination of water. It is done for two major reasons, to eliminate a drug quickly from the body, or to decrease one’s weight which can provide an advantage for weight bearing activities such as jumping, running, gymnastics, etc.
Anabolic Steroids are synthetically created and closely resemble the natural hormone testosterone. The major advantage is that it causes nitrogen retention which leads to protein syntheses which results in increased muscle mass and growth. In males steroids can cause baldness, acne, voice changes, aggression, high cholesterol, changes in libido, reduced natural testosterone, and a shrinking of testicles. In females steroids may cause baldness, deepening of voice (permanent), more facial hair, enlarge clitoris (permanent), increased libido, irregular menstruation, lower body fat, and a decrease in breast size. In general steroids can cause liver tumors, cancer, heart disease, and hypertension.
Blood doping involves removing blood far in advance of the athletic competition and storing it. In the meantime the body replenishes what was removed. Prior to the event the stored blood is put back into the body therefore increasing the volume of blood and increasing the hemoglobin levels. This increases the body’s ability to transport oxygen to the muscles, which is vital in endurance events such as The Tour du France. The biggest danger from this practice is too high a blood volume which can result in circulatory and metabolic shock.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) can increase muscle mass, connective tissue, body length and weight, and decreases body weight. Long term consumption is not well known. However, it is believed that it can cause acromegaly. This is a condition that produces elongation and enlargement of bones and thickening of bones and soft tissues of the face. It is associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and impotence. In some cases it may reduce life span for up to 20 years.
Most of these substances are banned in competitive sports. They give an unfair advantage and pose serious health risks. If any medication is needed because of health issues it must be made sure that it is not banned. High competitive athletes are obligated to provide blood or urine samples, many times without warning.