The Use of PED’s Within The Fitness Industry
Disclaimer: The below article is by no means an endorsement for the use of performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) or any banned substances and is for educational purposes only, always consult a GP before making decisions that may affect your health. For more information on the danger of PED’s visit MayoClinic.
For years the topic of performance enhancing drugs (PED’S) and various anabolic substances being used within the industry has been under heavy taboo, being swept under the carpet by various federations within competitive sport, it is a rising contemporary issue. Being typically stereotyped to the world of bodybuilding and associated with bulging muscles, grotesque vascularity and exponentially crippling health problems, this is typically a misconstrued truth.
PED’s are not simply just for super-physiological muscle growth, they can come in all different forms, each with their own purpose and equally their own health risks. Typically, most PED’s have been created for a purpose other than being an ergogenic aid, as a matter of fact, some are not actually meant for human use…
Below are just some of the most commonly used PED’s in todays fitness and sporting world-
Most commonly used in testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in older men or those with low serum testosterone, this androgen is primarily responsible for the various changes that occur during male puberty, including increased muscle mass, libido, sperm production and development of reproductive organs. As important as testosterone is during male maturation, it is also important for women, produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands, it helps regulate ovarian function and bone strength. Typically stereotyped as being a precursor to aggressive behavior, this is largely a myth and one’s aggressive behavior is mainly down to behavioral traits and is largely a result of underlying psychological issues. After being used clinically in TRT since its approval for medical use in 1939, synthetic testosterone found its way into the athletic world and was soon banned from Olympic competition in 1976, being further classed as a controlled substance by the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990. Being classified among substances that are “Endogenous AAS when administered exogenously” in the 2011 Prohibited List of the World Anti-Doping Agency,”in 2006, testosterone was the single most-common banned substance detected in urine tests at WADA-accredited laboratories, representing 26% of all “adverse analytical findings””.
Testosterone is the sole basis upon which many common AAS (anabolicandrogenic steroids) are derived, such as nandrolone and oxymetholone.
Although safe when used clinically and through necessity e.g. prescription from a GP, testosterone use proves beneficial in restoring natural hormone balance to those of the older generation or those with low levels of natural serum testosterone, when used unnecessarily and in excess there are many side effects to this substance e.g.:
- Gynecomastia (enlarged breasts in men)
- Prolonged erections
- Excess hair growth
- Male pattern of baldness
- Skin rash
- Water retention
- Alterations in liver function tests
- Increased or decreased sex drive
- Numbness and tingling
- Allergic reactions, and
- Pain and inflammation at the injection site
One of the most potent of all AAS and also listed on WADA’s banned substance list, Trenbolone has proven exponentially effective in the production of lean tissue and muscular strength, however proving equally as devastating on the health of those subjected to administration. This compound is considered up to three times more potent than testosterone, typically being paired with testosterone due to their synergistic relationship. Unlike Testosterone, Trenbolone does not fall subject to the activity of aromatase and 5α- reductase enzymes, therefore does not end up being converted into estrogenic compounds, which would limit lean tissue production. Although as potent as this compound may be, the side effects of this compound far outweigh its androgenic properties:
- Oily skin
- Enlargement of the prostate
- Severe sweating
- Increased blood pressure
- Androgenic alopecia (hair loss)
- Sleep disorders
- Gynecomastia (enlarged breasts in men)
- Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
Initially developed to treat asthma in horses, this drug has both decongestant and bronchodilatory properties, the decongestant thins the blood while the bronchodilation widens blood vessels allowing the blood oxygen volume to increase. Having similar effects to amphetamines and ephedrine, this substance stimulates the nervous system and performs in the opposite manner to that of a beta blocker. This compound is not actually classed as an AAS as it has no androgenic/anabolic properties, instead this substance gained notoriety outside of the medical world for its intense thermogenic effects and in turn, helping athletes reduce body fat with ease and in turn is also on WADA’s banned substance list. Again, much like the use of AAS, the use of this substance comes with many harsh health risks such as:
- Abnormal sweating
- Prolonged raised body temperature
- Heart palpitations
- Atrial fibrillation
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Cardiac hypertrophy, meaning increased risk of heart attack
This substance can also sometimes contain dopamine which in turn can make it highly addictive and even more dangerous for human use.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
This substance can also be referred to as somatotrophin or somatotrophic hormone, is produced endogenously by the body and is clinically used to treat individuals with growth hormone deficiency or those with decreased muscle mass due to immunocompromising conditions such as HIV. In adolescents, it promotes bone development and stimulates the production of collagen which plays a role in cartilage, bone, tendon and ligament strengthening, along with influencing the liver to produce growth factors. In adults, endogenous or exogenous HGH stimulates the break down in fat while also increasing red blood cell counts and improving heart function, thus can influence better physical performance. It also increases one’s muscle mass and improves recovery drastically. Again, this substance is on the WADA banned substance list provided it is being administered exogenously, certain individuals can have naturally high levels of HGH and therefore perform better in competition. Some side effects of using this extremely potent substance include:
- Excessive growth of feet, head, hands, jaw, nose etc (acromegaly)
- Growth of internal organs, leading to possible heart failure
- Muscle, joint, bone pain
- Cardiac limitations
- Heightened symptoms of cardiovascular disease
There are ongoing debates in the sporting world as to whether or not there should be limitations and testing to determine a common baseline for endogenous hormones, both in male and female competition, as some believe there are individuals with naturally high levels of hormones thus giving them an athletic advantage, this debate is still ongoing. Doping scandals have been found throughout the sporting world and are still ongoing, one of the most infamous being the use of PED’s by elite cyclist Lance Armstrong. This is just a testament to the fact that there is PED use and abuse among all sports, not just in the world of bodybuilding where it is commonly stereotyped to take place.
By Tireoghain O’Neill
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