by Sandi Bhutella
What is considered a drug? A drug is a substance other than food, which is taken into the body and creates a change. A change for the better and it's considered medicine; a harmful change makes it a poison. Performance enhancement drugs most often fall into the poison category, and the history of these drugs is extensive.
Doping has been a part of sports for over 2,000 years, but not until the 1960s was it recognized as a damaging practice for both the athlete as well as the spirit of sport. The problem is dramatic: serious health effects, ethical problems related to driving performance beyond natural levels and the illegal status of some drugs. Despite these problems, athletes are still bowing to pressure to use various performance enhancement drugs for a number of reasons including personal dissatisfaction with their performance, or pressure from coaches, family, the media, and eventually, physical dependence on the drugs.
Prior to the 1950s enhancement drugs were limited to stimulants and painkillers. In the mid-1950s, anabolic steroids were introduced to the athletic community allowing athletes to perform beyond natural levels. The first confirmed evidence of steroid use appeared at the 1956 World Games in Moscow. It was observed that Soviet athletes required the use of urinary catheters (devices to drain urine from the bladder) as steroid use had caused bodily changes which made it difficult to urinate. Despite the horror of this picture, American athletes soon embraced steroid use to compete with the Soviet athletes. The range of banned substances has since expanded and includes the following:
- Stimulants – amphetamines, caffeine in large concentration and many of the active ingredients found in flu and cold medications. The effect is an increased heart rate and problems with the body's natural ability to regulate temperature.
- Anabolic Agents – includes androgenic anabolic steroids (artificial version of the male hormone testosterone). It's illegal for doctors to prescribe and can have serious side effects including liver damage, baldness, acne, unusual hair growth on face, back and buttocks and changes in sexual characteristics.
- Diuretics – stimulate urine production and draw excess fluid from the body. Athletes who are required to make a certain weight for competitions often use them, but they can also make an athlete prone to dehydration.
- Growth Hormones – are often used to increase muscle size and strength, but the accompanying problems with joints and muscles can interfere with training and competition. Diabetes is another common side effect.
The list of banned substances is long, but the other important consideration is what drugs do to the spirit of the sport. If an athlete is dependent upon drugs to push their natural abilities to unnatural levels, then where is the competition? And if athletes are taking illegal substances then what happens to the ideal of fair play and sportsmanship? Performance enhancement drugs aren't keeping it real, they're making it fake.
Don't buy into it. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about.