Performance Enhancing Drugs: Explained.

With the Summer Olympics in full swing, performance enhancing drugs are making headlines.

Mostly, the focus has been on the ban of Russian athletes who have tested positive various banned substances. The use of performance enhancing drugs is nothing new, and it may be helpful to understand more about what they are.

There are four types of performance enhancing drugs:

1. Anabolic steroids Man-made derivatives of the male hormone “testosterone”. Testosterone is produced by the testes in males and relatively smaller quantities in the ovaries and adrenal glands of females. One of the main functions of anabolic steroids is to synthesize protein resulting in greater muscle size and strength. Well-known competitors like Ben Johnson and Marion Jones have been involved in steroid scandals.
2. Masking Agents
Drugs or compounds that are taken with the express purpose of hiding the presence of illegal drugs for athletic drug testing. Masking agents have the ability to conceal banned substances in the urine. 
3. Stimulants
 Stimulants or amphetamines can be defined as an agent temporarily increasing functional activity through the sympathetic nervous system. This system is responsible for “fight or flight” actions on the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Major stimulants used in athletes are caffeine and Ma Haung Extract a nutritional supplement similar to ephedra which has been banned in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. 
4. Erythropoietin  A man-made version of the hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells (RBC). EPO is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the kidneys, which stimulates the body to produce more RBCs. The use of EPO was banned by the International Olympic Committee in 1990. Blood doping is a method of infusing extra red blood cells either from a donor or from one’s own red blood cells that were previously removed.

Performance enhancing drugs can be part of an overall substance abuse problem that can have tragic consequences. The side effects of these types of drugs are dangerous and can land a person in the hospital (or kicked out of an Olympic competition). Regular drug testing may be required to discourage use of banned substances.

For a history of performance enhancing drugs, click here.

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