The Risks of Performance Enhancing Drugs

The Risks of Performance Enhancing Drugs

Professional sports are often very competitive and the need to win can be a serious driving force.  Not only do athletes have a sense of personal accomplishment, but most athletes are also pursuing their dream to break that record or win a gold medal for their country.  Performance enhancing drugs are a means to this end for some.  Using performance enhancing drugs come with risks.  These drugs include anabolic steroids, diuretics, creatine, human growth hormone and various stimulants. 

Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are used by athletes to increase muscle mass and strength.  The main hormone in anabolic steroids is testosterone.  Most athletes use this to enhance their performance as they need to be far fitter than if they were simply sitting around enjoying the thrill of pokies online!  Anabolic steroids do have medical uses, but should not be used to enhance sports performance. Not only do these steroids enhance muscle strength but also allow athletes t to recover quicker after onerous workouts and reduce muscle damage.

Designer steroids have been formulated which are only used for athletic performance and have no medical use. These steroids cannot be detected by drug tests. The problems come when athletes use high doses and have serious side effects such as infertility, impotence and baldness in men.  Women may develop increased body hair, baldness, a deeper voice.  These steroids affect both men and women with aggressive behaviour, heart problems, psychiatric disorders and drug dependence.  Using these steroids is prohibited by most sports and is illegal.

Human Growth Hormone

Human growth hormone has an anabolic effect and improves muscle mass and performance.  It can also reduce body fat in older adults.  A doctor has to prescribe this and is given with injection. This hormone can have adverse effects if used incorrectly and can cause muscle weakness, vision problems, diabetes, hypertension and an enlarged heart.


Erythropoietin is a hormone that is used by doctors to treat patients with anaemia in people with kidney disease, helps with production of red blood cells which results in improved oxygen circulation to the muscles.  The synthetic form of this hormone is Epoetin and used as a performance-enhancing hormone by athletes.  When this drug is abused it can cause strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms.


Diuretics have an effect on the body’s balance of fluids and salts, and may cause dehydration.  Many athletes use diuretics as they cause loss of water, which causes weight loss, and athletes get to compete in a lighter weight class, which is beneficial them.  If athletes are using diuretics, they can dilute these drugs and act as a masking agent.  Adverse effects of these drugs include dehydration, low blood pressure and dizziness and can result in death.


Creatine seems to assist with transporting energy in cells and gives bursts of energy, which is useful for sprinters and weightlifters.  Small amounts of creatine are produced by the body and from meat in our diet.  Creatine used incorrectly can cause decreased performance in athletes and stomach and muscle cramps and weight gain. Increased doses of creatine can lead to kidney and liver damage.