Expert Comment: how is sport’s doping culture changing?Monday 18 July 2016
Ahead of his appearance on BBC’s Horizon programme on BBC this Tuesday, Dr Peter Angell, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science discusses how doping in sport is becoming an issue for amateur and recreational athletes as well as professionals.
With the Rio Olympics a matter of weeks away, the issue of doping in sports once again comes to the fore. Following the Lance Armstrong affair and the ever increasing testing within sports, it was hard to believe that such a large scale doping programme could still occur in modern sport.
However, the recent banning of the Russian athletics team from the Olympics has demonstrated yet again the level of sophistication and depth of collusion that some employ in order to circumvent the rules.
With the continual increase in pressure to win through governing bodies, sponsors and even society as a whole, it is no surprise that individuals and teams are willing to do whatever they can in order to gain an advantage over their competitors.
However, the use of performance enhancing drugs has spread from the elite arena and is now pervasive throughout society with ‘recreational’ use being said to have increased in recent years.
Aside from improving athletic performance the reasons for their use vary considerably. Some use in order to help them with their physical work whilst a great deal of others use primarily for image enhancement purposes. At a societal level a number of other factors start to play a role in the increase in use of a wide variety drugs driven by an increased focus on body image and aesthetics.
Whilst there are undoubtedly positive effects of taking some of these agents, many are also associated with a number of negative side effects. Many will be familiar with anabolic steroids (AS) in the sense that they know they make you “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” but there is much more to this varying group of drugs. Whilst there is no doubt that these synthetic variations of testosterone work, there is some significant health risks associated with excessive consumption.
Negative side effects such as testicular atrophy, acne and male pattern baldness are reversible after a period of abstinence. However, continued excessive use can cause the natural production of testosterone to reduce or even stop completely. As well as these aesthetic changes, the use of AS are associated with a number of other negative health consequences such as liver and kidney disease as well as a number of cardiovascular events. Other doping practises, such as the use of EPO to increase red blood cell counts, also pose a risk to the cardiovascular system whilst fat burners can place excessive strain on the liver and cardiovascular system.
There is a an ever-increasing myriad of drugs and procedures that are designed for performance and image enhancing purposes, each posing different risks to the individuals health. The negative side effects will often do little to deter those looking to be the best in the world and the same could probably be said of many who use for image enhancing purposes.
However, there should be a continued drive to educate individuals and remove their use from both the elite and recreational level not only because of the health risks they pose, but to ensure the pillars of fair play and sportsmanship that the Olympics were built on remain a constant.