When Excellence Causes Illness in Sport’s Performance

Drugs can enhance performance but they can also harm your health in the short and longer-term

Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

Winning is what it’s all about for elite competitors.

Make no mistake, that’s why they continue to play at the highest level. If not they can always retire or drop down a level if they only want to play a sport for enjoyment.

But pushing yourself to win at all costs can come with a price too. Many athletes go too far. They can’t see winning from winning fairly. Instead, their ego takes over and they choose to take performance-enhancing drugs.

And although these will push your brain beyond its limits to perform better, there are many health risks that are associated with this short-term gain. Although there may not be an instant problem, in the long term there is a risk to the health of the competitor, especially when they use anabolic steroids, androstenedione, human growth hormone, erythropoietin, diuretics, creatine, and stimulants.

Anabolic steroids increase athletes’ strength and muscle mass. They mainly affect an athlete’s testosterone.

Firstly, this is affected as the steroids promote muscle building and they also deepen your voice and promote facial hair growth. Although they are approved for medical use, promoting athletic performance is not the main reason for this drug being on the market.

They allow the sportsperson to work harder, reduces muscular damage, and aiding recovery after a tough session too.

Designer steroids are a dangerous form of anabolic steroids. As they are undetectable by many drug tests and are made specifically for athletes that are competing at a high level. They are especially dangerous as they have not been tested or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Men who take anabolic steroids may work more intently at their sport but there are short-term side effects too.

They may develop more prominent breasts, their testicles may shrink, they may become infertile, and they can enlarge the prostate gland also. Yet it’s not only male athletes that take them who have issues. Females too may seek out these performance enhancers but the risks for them are that their voice may change permanently, they will have increased body hair growth or baldness, and the drug messes with their menstrual cycle also.

There are also reports of effects of liver problems, tendonitis, acne, cholesterol problems, aggression, psychotic episodes, and drug dependence also.

Androstenedione is produced in the adrenal glands of our bodies and is considered a hormone. Andro is an illegal performance-enhancing drug in the United States. By allowing athletes to train harder and longer there are many benefits to the drug.

But, again, there are side effects to this drug. Acne is an obvious one that is unwanted by many people. Under the trunks, males may experience shrinking testicles and lower sperm production whereas females may become more masculine and have similar effects to what anabolic steroids do to them.

Both males and females can suffer from blood and heart vessel damage which increases the risk of stroke and heart attack.

The human growth hormone has an anabolic effect. Although it hasn’t been proven to improve endurance or strength, athletes often take it to improve their performance.

However, they’ve experienced muscle weakness, joint pain, diabetes, problems with vision, carpal tunnel syndrome, fluid retention, and high blood pressure.

Erythropoietin increases the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. It also improves oxygen to your muscles. But it’s not all good either. Many competitive cyclists took erythropoietin in the 1990s and there were many alleged deaths as a result of this drug.

Diuretics can decrease an athlete’s weight, and help them pass drug tests. But there are downsides too. Dehydration, dizziness, a drop in blood pressure, muscular cramps are among these disadvantages to users. And a loss of balance and coordination can also be a result of taking diuretics.

Creatine is naturally produced by your body to allow your muscles to release energy. And Creatine monohydrate is a popularly purchased product by some athletes too. It makes your body increase adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and transports energy in cells. This allows for short bursts of power used in weightlifting, springing, and other short burst athletic efforts.

Side effects include muscle cramps, weight gain, and stomach issues.

Stimulants improve endurance and reduce fatigue but they can also increase irritability and insomnia.

For sure, pushing yourself to win will take you to victory most of the time, especially if you use performance-enhancing drugs. And you’ll be known as a winner to most.

But to yourself, you`ll know that you’ve not truly achieved. If you`d have lost without using drugs you’d have competed but not won.

By winning you get the glory, but what worth is it if you truly know that it’s the drugs that have pushed you to do it? Even though you’ll have gotten the medal, cup, or trophy you’ll know that you’re not the best competitor in the race.

You’ll have fooled others temporarily but in the future, your body will show you how it fooled you too.

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Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D.

Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D.

Forbes, INC. & Entrepreneur Magazines, CBS, & NBC Featured, Dr. Conor Is The World’s Leading High-Performance Neuro Socio-Psychologist & Co-Authored 4 Books