Author: James Anderson

Performance-enhancing drugs: Know the risks

drug use in sports

We then present a theoretically explorative discussion on the specific anti-doping risk/doping enabling processes and environments, using known cases of systematic doping as illustration. We conclude with a comparison of sport and non-sport responses to drug use and the potential outcomes of each approach. To date, only one large controlled trial has examined the efficacy of an environmental alcohol intervention among athletes.

drug use in sports

The health risks of drug abuse in athletes and the unfair advantage experienced by them were significant enough to induce the formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999. Inspiration could come from progress on something like vaccination policies that have led to significant changes in immunisation on a global scale. We might invite advice from non-sports experts and researchers from business, health research or policy areas that have shown successful cooperation. Over the years, different sporting bodies have evolved differently in the struggle against doping. Some, such as athletics and cycling, are becoming increasingly vigilant against doping. However, there has been criticism that sports such as football (soccer) and baseball are doing nothing about the issue, and letting athletes implicated in doping get away unpunished.

Policy risks are reduced by anticipating anti-doping testing in order to circumvent a positive test. Similarly, economic risks, including loss of one’s livelihood, are managed by avoiding positive tests and ensuring no disqualification, loss of prize money, or loss of sponsorships. Similar systems have also been reported in competitive bodybuilding where coaches support competitors doping practices through advising on what to take, how to acquire substances, proper dosing, and managing risks (Andreasson & Johansson, 2020; Monaghan, 2001). By analysing known cases of systematic doping we can see how they employed strategies similar to those outlined in Table 2. Doping and the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) are often considered and discussed as a separate issue from other types of substance use, by sporting bodies, politicians, the media, and athletes who use PEDs themselves (Evans-Brown, 2012). There is a more or less clear separation in both public discourse and research on doping between the (elite) sport context and the use of PEDs in society, often connected to the gym and fitness enterprise.

Medical Professionals

Because of these restrictions, athletes are vulnerable to both detection and physical harms from poor quality substances. Doping groups may respond to this by enlisting ‘doping doctors’ who can procure or prescribe higher quality substances, or by securing other trusted suppliers. This echoes sport harm reduction policy proposals for medically supervised doping (Savulescu, Foddy, & Clayton, 2004; Kayser et al., 2007). For example, all else being equal, adolescent alcohol use would theoretically be lower in a community that had numerous alcohol-free social activities available that were reinforcing to young people than a community that did not have such alternative activities. Behavioral economic theory also posits that alcohol and drug use will be lower when individuals are orientated toward future rewards incompatible with substance use, such as successful educational and vocational outcomes (Murphy & Dennhardt, 2016).

drug use in sports

It may reach an extent where the athlete abuses the drug every day to help cope. While the drive to perform at their very best pushes athletes to use drugs in sport, they face other factors that can cause different kinds of drug abuse. Essentially all of these substances have side effects, even the ones which are found naturally in the body. A lot of what is known about the acceptable levels of sports trauma–induced pain comes from the recovery phase of those activities. In general, the long-term effects of performance-enhancing drugs haven’t been studied enough.

This is a trend mirrored in sport doping research that focuses heavily on motives and prevention at the individual level. Taking an approach that understands substance use as socially (and spatially) situated, we can look more broadly at the interplay of physical, social, cultural, economic, and policy factors across levels (micro to macro) to understand how these influence use behaviours. There has been quite a bit of research attention given to risk environments in which social or recreational drug use occurs (see Duff, 2009; 2010; McLean, 2016; Rhodes et al., 2003). This has pushed forward understandings of how the context in which use occurs in many ways influences use behaviours.

The benefit to these random drug tests is that it prevents athletes on drugs from cheating the system if they are unaware of when testing is happening. When athletes on drugs are looking for information on substance abuse treatment, confidentiality tends to be one of their biggest considerations. The pressure that comes with being a competitive athlete with a team, fans, and family behind them can be intense, and in many cases, can prompt the abuse of alcohol or drugs in sport.

Drugs in Sport: Statistics, Side Effects, Prevention

Rhodes (2002, 2009) saw the goal of understanding risk environments as the production of enabling environments in which harm reduction occurs. Enabling environments can be examined similarly to risk environments, as the interaction of various harm reducing factors across levels. As Duff (2010) observed, it is tempting to understand the two separately, or as the former leading to the latter. This, however, limits the extent to which we can understand how both risk and enabling factors and processes are intertwined with one another. Simply adding harm reducing strategies to a risk environment does not automatically make an enabling environment – introducing a service does not necessarily mean it will be, or can be, used. In sum, the processes of building enabling environments require simultaneously understanding the multi-layered risk environments that may limit their impact and effectiveness – or be shaped positively in turn.

Diabetes, visual disturbances, hypertension, joint pain, and cardiomegaly can occur due to abuse of this prescription medication. General side effects include acne, inhibited growth in teenagers, hypertension, liver tumors, and psychiatric disorders. Anabolic steroids, used to improve the ease and efficiency of building muscle, became a mainstay among weightlifters and bodybuilders in the 20th century.

Finally, a recent study by Cimini et al. (2015) provided similar support for the efficacy of a single-session in-person motivational enhancement intervention. Together, these findings suggest that brief, motivational enhancement interventions have considerable potential in reducing harmful alcohol consumption among athletes. Beyond health concerns, anti-doping is also supposed to ensure fair competition by preventing any athlete from gaining an unfair advantage. WADA indicates that its primary duty is really to protect non-doping athletes, as its central mission is keeping doping and doping athletes out of sport.

  1. Social, economic, and policy risks – the three additional factors outlined by Rhodes – are bound together in significant ways.
  2. In 1998, the entire Festina team were excluded from the Tour de France following the discovery of a team car containing large amounts of various performance-enhancing drugs.
  3. Besides prescription medication, many athletes may turn to illicit substances to deal with mental health conditions, stressors, and pain that they experience.
  4. Stimulants are drugs that act on the central nervous system by speeding up physical processes.

Furthermore, athletes (or athletic programs) taking explicit measures to evade detection exacerbate the ethical violation with overt deception and cheating. It is unclear what will be the final outcome of doping war, but new questions and issues constantly present new challenges for both groups. For example, how each side will respond and adjust when unexpected outside forces – such as the current Covid-19 pandemic that has led to the postponement of World and Olympic level events – upset the tug of war. Future research on anti-doping policy and harm reduction may look more closely at the ways known doping systems have developed and their strategies for reducing various risk factors in order to enable doping. By considering these systems, sport researchers and policymakers may find new ways to incorporate harm reducing strategies to produce a less risky sport environment. It is possible, though, that the most effective doping systems for reducing harms may be the ones that have thus far avoided detection.

This equates the more oxygen for the muscles, which comes with a performance boost. While the athlete’s own blood can be used if stored ahead of time, same-type blood from a third party is also an option. Erythropoietin is a hormone produced by the kidneys in response to insufficient oxygen in the body cells.

How to Prevent the Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs

Taking these into account, we next apply the risk environment framework to the current context to analyse how anti-doping policies have created an intolerant environment that drives doping into the shadows of sport, increasing various risks to athletes along the way. Following this, we examine how groups have organized systems of doping using strategies, similar to those outlined above, that work to reduce harm to athletes and enable safer use of PEDs. Though there is a range of motivations for engaging in doping (Henning & Dimeo, 2014), a primary one at the elite level is winning. For elite and professional athletes, the monetary incentives to win can be huge and provide a reason for athletes to use prohibited substances (Aubel & Ohl, 2014; Fincoeur, Cunningham & Ohl, 2018). However, the physical and social risks of doping are multiplied when individuals must secure their own supply, determine their own doses, minimise side effects, and prevent being caught through in or out of competition testing.

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Women may become more masculine, with a deeper voice, more body hair, baldness, and infrequent menstruation. Drug dependence, aggressive behavior, and psychiatric disorders are also possibilities, among many more. The history behind drug use in sports goes as far back as ancient times, claiming that doping might have been present as far back as the ancient Olympic Games. However, in relatively more modern times, one of the earliest records of doping was during an endurance walking race where a contestant admitted to using opiates to stay alert.