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Should The Use Of All Performance Enhancing Drugs Be Unprohibited For Use In Sports?

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Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) are usually perceived to be dangerous and unfair to other participants in all sports. Whenever PEDs are referred to, they are often seen in a negative light due to social stigmas. People tend to also disregard dangers within a sport that are completely unrelated to drug use such as concussions and focus entirely on keeping sport drug free rather than injury-free. The prominence of PEDs in sport is ever increasing, with 57% of world class athletes admitting to PED use in 2018 (Brandon Spektor 2018) and athlete Mo Farah being accused of illegal supplement use (L Carnitine) very recently. However, drug use in sport is not just a recent issue and there have been examples hundreds of years ago in which competitors have had an edge due to substance abuse. Where can the line be drawn between which substances are legal and which are not? I believe that to decide whether certain or all PEDs should be legalised, information about each of the most used PEDs should be analysed to determine their risks, benefits and whether their legal status is fair in comparison to other legal substances.

The most well-known PEDs are known as Anabolic Agents, which are Steroidal androgens that are either natural or synthetic. Testosterone is a natural Steroidal androgen and synthetic androgens are often structurally related and have similar effects to Testosterone. Anabolic Steroids are one of the most used Anabolic Agents and are sought after due to their muscle-building effects. However, Anabolic Steroids are a good example of the many PEDs that are accompanied by negative side effects. Anabolic Steroids are often taken in patterns of doses which can enhance the possible side effects due to the body having to deal with a surge in a testosterone-like substance over a short time period. The side effects of Anabolic Steroids can include acne, liver tumours, heart tumours, severe mood swings and Gynecomastia (NHS 2018).

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Another well-known PED is growth hormone, which is a form of Peptide Hormone that stimulates protein synthesis, leading to an increase in muscle mass. Growth Hormone also prompts sarcomere hypertrophy (promotes muscle mass and reduces body fat), plays a role in Homeostasis, stimulates the immune system and contributes to the maintenance and function of pancreatic islets which secrete Insulin and Glucagon (Ranabir S, Reetu K January 2011). So not only does Growth Hormone increase muscle mass, but it also maintains glucose levels in the blood and prevents infection due to its effect on the immune system. However, Growth Hormone is not exempt from negative side effects that can become life-threatening. High cholesterol levels caused by Growth Hormone can cause heart attacks and/or strokes and cancerous tumours can develop due to excessive doses of Growth Hormone (Emily Cronkleton 2018). Due to its growth tendencies, all internal organs except the brain tend to grow due to Growth Hormone use. An enlarged heart can lead to failure which will obviously be detrimental to someone's health. Gynecomastia is also a side effect of Growth Hormone use, alike to Anabolic Steroids because the substances taken often have a very similar makeup.

Both previous PEDs are related to building muscle mass but many others do not necessarily have the same effects. Erythropoietin (EPO) is a naturally produced hormone secreted by the kidney that stimulates red blood cell production (Momaya A, Fawal M, Estes R April 2015). It is usually injected under the skin to improve the endurance of long-distance runners due to a higher amount of oxygen being supplied to the muscles by red blood cells. This delays fatigue, meaning the athlete can endure for longer periods or train harder. Athletes taking Erythropoietin have shown to make huge amounts of progress, so much so that tests in Australia have proven that an athlete's progress over four weeks matches the amount of progress that would be expected over several years. Another feature of Erythropoietin is that it’s untraceable by conventional drug testing. Despite this, for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, developments were made in France in which both blood and urine samples of the athlete were taken and compared (BBC Sport 2006) to identify Erythropoietin. However, there were no positive results which could imply that the testing method doesn’t work, but the source of the information is quite old so technological advances may have been made recently that mean drugs like Erythropoietin can be traced more efficiently. As expected with an increase in production of red blood cells, the viscosity of the blood will increase which has potential to lead to a stroke and/or a pulmonary embolism which involves a blockage of an artery in the lungs (Pediatr Rev. 2012 Jun). Erythropoietin comes under blood doping which includes PEDs or procedures that increase red blood cells in the body to provide more oxygen to the muscles. Blood transfusions also come under blood doping and are illegal due to negative effects such as possible infections and ABO incompatibility reactions due to different people's blood types.

All these forms of performance enhancement are quite dangerous but very effective. What people often fail to consider however, are the legal performance-enhancing drugs that are not dissimilar to those that aren’t legal. Ephedrine is a very good example of this because it prompts increases in strength, power and speed but can also have negative impacts on someone's health. Most forms of Ephedrine are deemed too unsafe for prescription, yet they are available from overseas pharmacies which ship to the UK (Antonia Hoyle 2012). It is apparent that the risks associated with the use of Ephedrine outweigh any benefits. Products containing Ephedrine often improve aerobic performance, endurance and reduce fatigue. Strength increases sometimes occur although that is not the drugs main purpose. Due to an extensive list of positive effects, the drug is growing in popularity which results in an increase in hospital cases due to the associated health risks.

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Should The Use Of All Performance Enhancing Drugs Be Unprohibited For Use In Sports? (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
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