The Down Side of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports


Sport has always been an integral part of human society. The inborn desire for achievement and competition preconditioned the appearance and development of various games that attracted people’s attention and guaranteed rewards for winners. For this reason, athletes have always been trying to achieve new levels of performance, improve their results, enhance their endurance, and become stronger. Fame and recognition are two basic factors that have stimulated sportsmen and driven them to keep training. However, with the evolution of sports, its infrastructure, and other elements associated with it, the importance of victories increased dramatically. For this reason, today, sports is widely associated with the use of performance-enhancing drugs that help athletes to improve their physical abilities and results. Unfortunately, the given medications give rise to the emergence of multiple health risks and decreased value of victory.


The scope of the problem remains extremely significant regardless of all attempts to prohibit the use of drugs and eliminate such cases. Sportsmen remain one of the most interested actors as surveys show that 98% percent of athletes are ready to use medicines if there are no penalties for it (Wick). Moreover, 50% of athletes agree to use steroids or similar medication to win all competitions but on the condition that they would die (Wick). The given numbers prove the idea that drugs are a critical element of the modern sport and mentalities of people who work in this sphere. There is also an assumption that up to 100% of all athletes who compete at high levels have used steroids to achieve success (Khing 24). In such a way, the wide use of performance enhancers in the given sphere makes the problem of multiple adverse effects extremely relevant.

Peculiarities of Drugs’ Effects and Their Types

The leading cause of using drugs in sports is to increase the physical fitness of a person and attain better results by stimulating some processes in the body that are associated with stress and exercise loads. Additionally, multiple drugs and techniques are used to alter the endocrine profile of athletes and increase their speed, power, or endurance. For instance, rising oxygen delivery to muscles is one of the best ways to enhance aerobic performance, which is vital for sportsmen (Perritano 55). To achieve this goal, blood doping and erythropoietin products are common among cyclists (Perritano 55). There are multiple other examples of using drugs regarding the type of competition and intensity of planned race, round, or match. Successes in the sphere of pharmacology provide coaches and multiple teams with numerous options.

Using steroids to improve performance is one of the most common types of illicit actions that are performed by sportsmen. Anabolic-androgenic steroids such as testosterone, danazol, androstenedione, and methyltestosterone, introduce significant alterations into the endocrine profile as usually females and males have testosterone circulating in their bodies (Robinson and Epshteyn 78). However, using steroids, individuals introduce radical changes into the work of their bodies as the use of hormones influences the muscle size, strengths, fat-body mass, and other factors that promote athletic performance (Khing 98). Because of the high number of effects, steroids remain one of the most popular sorts of doping in sport and are widely used by athletes regardless of multiple adverse effects that are associated with their use, not in accordance with the main purpose of these medicines.

Moreover, today there are so-called designer steroids that are created especially for athletes to help them to improve their performance and, at the same time, avoid penalties for using doping. These synthetic steroids remain undetected by existing drug tests as they are constructed regarding the current advances in the given field. At the same time, due to this fact, these pills are not tested or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means that their impact on the health of people is not completely understood and they might cause severe damage to various systems or even precondition the death of a person. The wide use of all types of steroids remains a significant issue for modern sports as the need for the constant improvement of results creates the basis for cheating and the use of drugs to help sportsmen to succeed. However, the given tendency results in the growth in the number of adverse effects that are associated with the given sphere.

Finally, sportsmen can use many other drugs that can help to solve existing problems and improve results. These might include cannabinoids, morphine, amphetamines, eugeroics, stimulants, beta-blockers, and many other substances that guarantee the increase in performance levels and, at the same time, contain multiple risks that might affect a person. Every year, WADA adds new medicines to the list of prohibited drugs as they might also be used to attain better results, which evidences that there are numerous attempts to find new ways to cheat and win, and sportsmen are interested in it.

Effects and Risks


The only positive effect of using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs is the significant improvement in performance and results demonstrated by athletes. It is achieved in several ways regarding the sort of substance that is used and the planned outcome. As stated above, steroids change the endocrine profile by stimulating the production of testosterone that is responsible for endurance, strength, and aggression (Khing 56). These aspects are vital for a sportsman; however, deviations in the normal functioning of the body might be dangerous and contain health risks. Additionally, other drugs such as cannabinoids, or mildronate help to recover faster by reducing the level of stress and increasing the speed of muscle fiber regeneration (Khing 111). It helps athletes to participate in multiple competitions and demonstrate outstanding results as they need reduced time to prepare for new rounds or tours.


A single positive effect of performance-enhancing drugs comes along with numerous adverse effects that are emphasized by specialists working in the given sphere. First of all, the sport itself is a hard challenge for a person and his/her as it presupposes an extremely hard physical load, high levels of stress, and exhaustible training. However, the use of medication to alter the functioning of basic systems or stimulate their work might precondition the appearance of significant health risks and the development of diseases affecting all parts of the body (Perritano 23). Today, there are some areas that suffer from the use of steroids most of, such as the reproductive system, endocrine profile, cardiovascular system, and vision (Perritano 112). Moreover, pain issues and the inability to manage them are also common problems that are linked to drugs in sports.

Reproductive System

The reproductive system of athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs is usually the first victim. Investigations show that the use of steroids affects both men and female fertility, and their sexual function (Sansone et al. 114). The effects of using androstenedione include diminished sperm production, deterioration of its quality, and shrinking of the testicles (Sansone et al. 114). Additionally, prostate gland enlargement and erectile dysfunction are also associated with the use of designer steroids and similar drugs. As a result, a man becomes sterile or unable to perform his sexual function.

For women, the situation also remains dangerous. The constant income of testosterone alters their endocrine profile and preconditions to the overall masculinization of the body. Along with such effects as deepening of the voice and male-pattern baldness, it might also affect the frequency of periods and result in their absence (Khing 123). It indicates a serious problem in the work of the reproductive system with might also precondition the development of sterility or inability to become pregnant or carry a child.

Endocrine Profile

Alterations in the endocrine profile of a person who uses performance-enhancing drugs are another common problem. The mechanism of steroids presupposes the income of specific hormones that work as performance stimulators and help a person to improve his/her results. At the same time, there are multiple diseases that might be preconditioned by the inappropriate functioning of the given system, including diabetes, different types (Robinson and Epshteyn 78). The irreversible alterations in the given sphere might also mean a change of personality and problematic communication with other people (Robinson and Epshteyn 111). Enlargement of the breasts peculiar to men who use steroids can be a serious psychological and physiological problem causing discomfort and ethical issues (Wieffernik et al. 75). At the same time, women might also suffer from the change in their endocrine profile because of the alterations in their appearance and inability to give birth.


Deterioration of vision and even blindness is another significant concern that is linked to drugs in sports. In general, this sort of problem is common for athletes because of the high level of physical stress. It preconditions the emergence of some deviations in the functioning of the eyes, blood vessels that supply them, and nerves (Van de Ven et al. 840). For this reason, professional sportsmen belong to the risk group. However, the use of steroids to enhance results might make the problem worse and create the basis for the evolution of multiple complications. For instance, a human growth hormone that is often employed to increase muscle mass is also associated with the appearance of problems with vision, its critical deterioration, and the development of glaucoma (Robinson and Epshteyn 123). It means that the downside of performance-enhancing drugs also includes possible blindness and other problems with vision.


Chronic pain and its problematic management are other issues that are usually associated with sportsmen. Multiple traumas and extreme loads precondition the appearance of unpleasant feelings that transform into acute or chronic pain (Khing 99). It can be considered a serious problem as many former athletes become addicted to drugs that help them to alleviate unpleasant feelings (Khing 99). However, the use of steroids or doping contributes to the worsening of the problem as additional negative factors emerge. Chronic joint pain is an adverse effect that is linked to almost all performance-enhancing drugs as they precondition alteration in the work of the body and help individuals to disregard unpleasant feelings during training or competitions (Perritano 67). At the same time, it contributes to the accumulation of problematic issues and problematic pain management in the future.

Cardiovascular System

Finally, the functioning of the cardiovascular system becomes affected by the use of steroids or doping. Research shows that about 80% of athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs also have hypertension (Perritano 89). The high level of stress peculiar to the given sphere, along with the adverse effects of steroids, preconditions the evolution of heart diseases. Moreover, sportsmen using steroids face a higher risk of having a heart attack or a stroke (up to 40%), which is also linked to the negative effects caused by the additional income of hormones or other substances altering the usual functioning of the body (Perritano 99). Investigations also show the existence of a positive correlation between the use of drugs and the appearance and development of ischemia in sportsmen (Perritano 123). Under these conditions, the cardiovascular system also suffers from the use of drugs to attain better results.

Ethical Issues

Along with the health problems, the use of this sort of drug preconditions the appearance of some ethical issues that can also be discussed. Sport has always been taken as the way to compete and find the strongest, fastest, or better-prepared person and reward him/her. This initial purpose had served as the facilitator of sports evolution as a way to get satisfaction from the fair struggle. Today, the use of drugs destroys this idea as the winner is not necessarily a person who worked hard and achieved everything by his/her own efforts. On the contrary, in the majority of cases, sportsmen who do not use the substances mentioned above cannot expect success in professional sport because of their inability to improve their performance by fair methods.

It also means that the value of sport is nowadays decreased. It is not a competition between individuals or teams. Today, it is a struggle between pharmacological companies that develop drugs for athletes only and promote their products via their clients’ wins (Khing 21). Because of the sportsmen’s readiness to use drugs and their desire to win to become rewarded, the given pattern becomes more topical, and steroids are nowadays an integral part of the whole professional sport. The fact that all athletes use steroids, but not all are caught, decreases the value of modern sport and creates the basis for vigorous debates about its future (Longman and Connely).


Altogether, sport is a vital aspect of our society which can guarantee fame and money to winners. For this reason, there is extensive use of performance-enhancing drugs that help individuals to improve their performance and attain better results. However, there are also multiple adverse effects that come along with these substances as they interfere with the work of the body and its basic systems. The downside includes problems with vision, reproductive and cardiovascular systems, pain, and changes in the endocrine profile. Athletes who use drugs belong to the risk group and might even die because of the negative influence of steroids. Unfortunately, this fact does not stop them, and there are attempts to create new medicines that would not be noticed by WADA and guarantee the acquisition of the competitive advantage that would help to win or hold leading positions, which, in its turn, is important for the rise of pharmacological companies.

Works Cited

Khing, Tony. Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports. Abdo Publishing Company, 2014.

Longman, Jere, and Marjorie Connely. “Drug Testing; Americans Suspect Steroid Use In Sports Is Common, Poll Finds.” The New York Times, 2003. Web.

Perritano, John. Performance-Enhancing Drugs: Steroids, Hormones, and Supplements. Mason Crest, 2016.

Robinson, Tom, and Mikhail G. Epshteyn. Performance-Enhancing Drugs. Abdo Publishing, 2009

Sansone, Andrea, et al. “Sport, doping and male fertility.” Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, vol. 16, 2018, p. 114. Web.

Van de Ven, Katinka, et al. “Health Risk and Health Seeking Behaviours among People Who Inject Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs Who Access Needle Syringe Programs in Australia.” Drug and Alcohol Review, vol. 37, no. 7, Nov. 2018, pp. 837–846. Web.

Wick, Jeanette. “Performance-Enhancing Drugs: A New Reality in Sports?” Pharmacy Times, 2014. Web.

Wieffernik, Carine, et al. “Social psychological determinants of the use of performance-enhancing drugs by gym users.” Health Education Research, vol. 23, no. 1, 2008, pp. 70-80. Web.

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