In the news more and more frequently we are hearing of drugs impacting the sports we all love to watch. Sport if a universal language, it’s something everyone can take part in, whether you actually play or just cheer on from the sidelines everyone can feel included. We rally behind those individuals and teams that excel in their particular field. These athletes we look up to based on their ability to cycle the fastest, kick the most goals in a game or simply run faster than anyone else. Saying this, the pressure to be the best seems too much for some as we see them resort to performance enhancing drugs in order to be number one. The issue of drugs in sport can be identified on a global scale and is impacting some of our most prestigious sporting events.
The most common form of performance enhancing drugs come as anabolic steroid and steroid precursors. Which I will now explain in more depth.
Anabolic steroids can be natural or synthetic hormones that have similar features to testosterone and promote the growth of muscle in the body. While steroid precursors are synthetic drugs that the body can turn into anabolic steroids. Obviously when there is more muscle in the body this will allow one to be stronger and this can cause an unfair advantage. Long term use of these steroids or excessive doses can lead to increased cholesterol, high blood pressure and liver damage to name a few. These have been the most detected doping substances for years and it is because of this they have been banned.
Here you can see how the structure of a natural anabolic hormone is very similar to the structure of a synthetic anabolic hormone respectively
The structure of a steroid is simply 17 carbon atoms that form four carbon rings, each will vary slightly but this is the basis of all steroid structures.
Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) and the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) are both taking measures to try and stop illegal and dangerous misuse of drugs in sport. ‘One of the big dangers facing sport today is the loss of integrity that comes from doping’ said David Howman, the director general of WADA. However they say ‘policing it…is harder than ever’ as there has been a boom in how many different types of drugs are becoming available. The reason they ban these drugs isn’t simply due to unfair advantage for athletes who take them but also to do with risks to the athlete’s health.
For a substance to be prohibited by WADA (1) it must meet two of the three criteria in place:
Every single year there are hundreds of newly modified substances being made in labs that are believed to help enhance performance in sport. Often these drugs are released with little to no prior testing and without evidential knowledge of how it will act in the athlete’s body or of any side effects. Once a drug has been banned multiple alternatives will generally pop up in its place, making the task of controlling doping even harder.
Asada.gov.au. (2016). Prohibited substances and methods | Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority – ASADA. [online] Available at: https://www.asada.gov.au/substances/prohibited-substances-and-methods [Accessed 6 May 2016].
Mayoclinic.org. (2016). Performance-enhancing drugs and teen athletes – Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/performance-enhancing-drugs/art-20046620
Spanish Olympic Games photo. (2012). [image] Available at: http://www.photovisi.com
World Anti-Doping Agency. (2015). Speech by WADA Director General, David Howman, Challenges to the Integrity of Sport, Melbourne (October 15, 2015). [online] Available at: https://www.wada-ama.org/en/media/news/2015-10/speech-by-wada-director-general-david-howman-challenges-to-the-integrity-of-sport