Doping, What is it and Why is It Dangerous?

We have all heard of athletes who were disqualified from their sport for doping. Certain Olympic sports such as track and swimming, baseball, football, body building, weight lifting and cycling races have all seen their share of doping scandals. Just what is doping?

In simple terms, doping is the use of drugs or other substances to enhance an athlete’s performance, making them faster, stronger or have more stamina than they normally would. Anabolic steroids are probably the most well-known of the drugs, followed by HGH (human growth hormone) dianabol. Other drugs and substances have also been used, such as testosterone, Dianabol, Furabol, cocaine, digitalis, amphetamines, ephedrine and even strychnine.

Since the early 1990s, blood doping has also been done using various substances and methods to raise the red blood cell count. Two of the substances used are Erthropoietin and Hypoxia Inducible Factor Stabilizer. The first is normally used in medicine for cancer patients undergoing chemo therapy or radiation. It also promotes faster healing of wounds. The second is used in the treatment of chronic kidney disease. Blood transfusions and blood substitutes (engineered O2 carriers) are two of the methods used to increase the red cell count. Increasing the number of red blood cells enables more oxygen to be carried through the body.

Many of the drugs and methods used for doping have beneficial medical uses when used appropriately and in low doses. In sports, they are used in high doses and more often than in medicinal use for the sake of lasting longer, being faster and stronger to have an edge in competition.

When these substances and methods are used for the sake of enhancing an athlete’s performance, they not only can but do become dangerous. The risks athletes take in doping include stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, liver, kidney and thyroid damage, cardiovascular disease, aggressive behavior, severe mood swings, suicidal thoughts and adrenal burnout.

The risks an athlete takes in doping don’t just damage the person’s health, they can be deadly. Other risks may not be as dangerous but will still affect the athlete for the rest of their life. For example, adrenal fatigue will leave the athlete weak, damage to the reproductive system can result in sterility and impotence, problems with balance and coordination, and an enlarged heart. What an anabolic androgenic steroid is can be best understood taking the words separately. Anabolic or anabolism refers to that metabolic process in living organisms and cells – such as inside our body – that helps in synthesizing or bringing together smaller molecules to build larger ones. As against catabolism, that does the opposite, anabolism tends to coalesce complex molecules, letting them grow as a whole.

Androgenic stands for that property of a natural or synthetic chemical compound in vertebrates (for example, human beings) that stimulates or controls development and maintenance of masculine characteristics. More commonly, androgen is indicative of developing male sexuality, though testosterone, a well-known androgen, secretes in both the testes of males and the ovaries of females.

Steroid, occurring as it does from sterol like cholesterol, a naturally happening steroid alcohol, is a group of organic compounds including many types of hormones, alkaloids and vitamins.

What follows therefore is that anabolic androgenic steroid is a type of naturally occurring or manmade substance that assists in growth of cells and combining smaller molecules in human body. In other words, anabolic androgenic steroid results in growth of several types of tissues, especially bone and muscle.

Use of anabolic androgenic steroid is popular among people who are interested in enhancement of physical performance – for example athletes and other sports persons. Some individuals use it because they perceive its use will improve their appearance, in which case it almost becomes an addiction.

In the present time, anabolic androgenic steroid rakes up more controversy than its share, which is mainly on account of abuse of the drug. Many countries have devised stringent measures in attempts to control its use and distribution. However, it has medicinal benefit too.

Classified as Schedule III drugs in accordance with the Controlled Substances Act (U. S. Department of Justice-DEA, 1997), anabolic androgenic steroid is prescribed for treating anemia, osteoporosis, growth stimulation, gonad dysfunction, gynecological disorders, and chronic wasting conditions like cancer and AIDS, among others.

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