Are drugs destroying fair play in sports?

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Are drugs destroying fair play in sports?

Vivek Varyani
August 9th, 2017

After the controversial loss Usain Bolt faced in his last solo race at the World Championship Athletics in London, commentators have started to question the winner of the race, Justin Gatlin, who has been previously banned twice for the use performance enhancing drugs.


So what are the drugs that helped athletes in the past, and what effects do they have on the human body in athletic performances.


Blood doping

Blood doping is a method of enhancing performance without the use of drugs. This is done, however, by increasing the number of red blood cells in the body, resulting in more oxygenated blood reaching the muscles. The oxygenated blood cells increase performance, but however are associated with extreme side effects, such as blood and heart diseases.



Stimulant drugs such as cocaine and adrafinil, are arguably one of the most efficient performance enhancing drugs. These act directly on the nervous system and speed up brain and body functions. Athletes may use these drugs to increase alertness, reduce tiredness, and enhance their competitiveness and aggressiveness. Adrenaline is an example of a naturally occurring stimulant. Other examples of stimulants are amphetamines, ephedrine, and mesocarb.




Anabolic steroids:

These are common for athletes to take during training, and not during main races. Anabolic Steroids help athletes increase their muscle strength, as well as enabling quicker recovery and muscle regeneration post exercise.. This allows for more intensive training sessions, without the risk of overtraining and wearing out body muscles. Although  good for muscle generation, anabolic steroids have proven to cause major physical side effects, such as deepening of voice and excess hair growth on the body. Needless to say such drugs are illegal for consumption and use, due to rules relating to fair-play, and their known risk to human health.


Designer Steroids

The name designer comes from the fact that these steroids are designed to be able to avoid detection during doping tests. Providing stronger muscle regeneration and better physical performances, designer steroids are proven to be strong performance enhancing drugs among Olympic athletes looking for that extra edge or to increase their levels of fitness. However,  these drugs are slightly more dangerous than their anabolic cousins as they have worse side effects, causing serious damage to both men and women. Risks are high for impotence, baldness, prostate, heart along with many more unnecessary  life risks. The World Anti doping Agency (WADA) has been trying to track these new drugs and are constantly on the lookout. Examples of designer steroids include tetrahydrogestrinon & norboletone.



Narcotic drugs include Morphine, Opium, and heroine, along with various others. Narcotics not only block pain sensations, but also produce euphoric and mind-altering effects, making them targets for abuse and high addiction. Narcotics have no ergogenic or performance enhancing qualities. Athletes usually use Narcotics to mask pain caused by musculoskeletal injury, allowing them to compete. It is for this reason that they are listed as banned substances in competition but are permitted when out of competition. Some of their side effects include nausea, vomiting dizziness, and high mood swings.




Beta-2 agonists

Examples include salbutamol, terbutalene. These drugs are commonly found in asthma inhalers that help patients relax their muscles for proper breathing. Not only this, at high doses, Beta agonists can act as an anabolic agent and promote weight gain,  mainly in the form of muscle due to higher oxygen intake. The World anti doping agency has permitted its use  for patients suffering from asthma and bronchial constriction only, and this is only available for inhalation in small quantities. Some common side effects of overdose include muscle tremors, nausea, anxiety, and severe headaches.


Peptide hormones:

Peptide hormones are naturally occurring protein substances whose molecules are peptides or proteins. They enable higher muscle mass and higher concentration of protein in the blood, enabling better performances and stronger muscles. The drug increases the density of red blood cells in the body, leading to increased performance and oxygen intake. However, the use of this drug causes severe risks in heart and various cardiovascular diseases, as it causes the heart to pump harder, increasing the likelihood of a stroke or attack. A common example of a human growth hormone is insulin.



Although not performance enhancing drugs on their own, these drugs help erase traces of previously used performance enhancing drugs and are monitored closely by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) in athletics. They help increase urine production, allowing the flushing out of detectable drugs. Common examples are alcohol and caffeine.


All these performance enhancing drugs have been used in the past, and there are many new drugs that are coming into existence., iIt keeps getting harder for the anti doping agencies to keep up with these newly processed drugs. A permanent ban on athletes using drugs even once in their lives has been called for, and will hopefully reduce the ‘cheats’ in not just athletics, but also all other kinds of sports. Stricter action by the WADA must be taken to ensure proper sportsmanship and stronger ethics are adhered to.


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