Performance Enhancing Drugs are found throughout professional sports all around the world. Each year in the U.S. professional athletes test positive for PEDs. But what are they and what do they do? Here is a short list of some different PEDs and their effects.
Short for dehydroepiandrosterone, DHEA is found naturally in the body. When ingested it is intended to increase testosterone levels and build muscle mass. However, studies have shown that the drugs effects on muscle building and strength is negligible. DHEA levels can be increased in the body by exercising. Still, DHEA is banned by nearly every professional sport in the world that requires drug testing. Most often when athletes have tested positive for DHEA they have claimed ignorance, stating that they took the substance as a supplement with no literal intention of increasing muscle mass or strength.
Probably the most commonly referenced drug when considering PEDs, anabolic steroids were popularized with the overdoses of a number of professional wrestlers through the years. Anabolic steroids are simply meant to act like testosterone and help to build muscle. Unlike DHEA, anabolic steroids have been proven to aid in the building of muscle mass. A long list of side effects accompanies the use of anabolic steroids. Use increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, cholesterol and blood pressure. Build up of breast tissue in males and general lower sexual functioning and infertility occurs with use.
Human Growth Hormone was popularized nationally when Barry Bonds was accused in the BALCO scandal. In Major League Baseball's subsequent investigation, HGH was found to be the most commonly used drug. HGH is in the same drug class as anabolic steroids since they're used to increase cell growth. Many users have admitted to using as a way to recover from injury faster. The FDA has approved the prescribed use of growth hormone and it still harbors side effects including propensity to develop diabetes, joint swelling & pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. HGH is a banned substance in most professional sports including the NCAA. A blood test is needed to test for HGH.
Many retired professional athletes (especially in baseball and football) have admitted to witnessing the use of amphetamine in the 70s and 80s. Amphetamines include a wide variety of drugs and are used to decrease fatigue and increase energy levels. Most physical effects are negative but athletes began using these typically recreational drugs due to their propensity to increase energy and allow individuals to ignore pain. Use of the drug has also been known to give the user feelings of power and superiority. There is a very long list of side effects associated with amphetamine use, the most intimidating being depression, dizziness, insomnia, paranoia and obsessive behaviors. Amphetamines are very addictive and users often experience difficult withdrawal symptoms.
These are a few of the most widely used performance enhancing drugs and their side effects. Use of these drugs, while decreasing slightly in recent years, is still present in professional sports. Testing has increased and athlete unions have been agreeing more and more to allow different testing procedures. Still, athletes and professional sports have a long way to go before eliminating wide-spread use.