In his golden days, Anderson Silva was untouchable. He was the face of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) with 16 consecutive wins. His extreme power and unique style made him a monster in the cage. He was also considered in the debate for the greatest fighters of all time. But unfortunately, destroying everything he ever worked for, he tested positive for steroids. He had both methyl-testosterone and diuretics in his system and got caught after a urine test. The Nevada State Athletic Commission has banned him for 2 years and the ban may continue for longer.
Methyl-testosterone is an anabolic steroid which is a performance-enhancing substance. The main function of anabolic steroids is that it mimics testosterone. It also Increases muscle mass, bone growth, strength and power and it allows athletes to train harder and recover quicker. However, the side effects of the steroids are that they increase blood pressure and liver diseases as well as the chance of heart attacks, strokes and infertility in women. Diuretics speeds up the kidney function and urine production. Athletes sometimes use it for instant weight loss but most of the time, they use it to accelerate other banned substances leaving the system and prevent it from being detected in the urine. The side effects are that it causes tiredness, nausea, kidney problems, dizziness and headaches.
Now to know why the athlete’s take these PEDs, we first have to know what they are and what are the different kinds. Performance Enhancing Drugs are used to produce expected and welcome physical or psychological effects. However, with desired effects, there are side effects as well. Some of the common PEDs used are anabolic steroids, diuretics, beta-blockers, peptide hormones and stimulants.
Here is a graph to show athletes getting disqualified after being tested positive for a banned substance in summer olympics by men and women from 1968-2012.
Beta-blockers are used to lower heart rate and blood pressure and are used in ‘precision’ sports such as archery, shooting and snooker. Kim Jog-Su won a silver medal in the 50m pistol event and bronze medal in 10m air shooting but the International Olympic committee did a dope-test, and Kim got caught using an illegal drug called propranolol which is a beta blocker. It helped him mediate his adrenaline levels, such as tremors and performance anxiety.
Stimulants are drugs which increase alertness by stimulating the ‘central nervous system’.
It improves reaction time, cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance. It can be found in caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, ephedrine and so on. Diego Maradona, is one of the legends in the history of soccer. In the 1994 World Cup, 6 hours before Argentina had to face Bulgaria, Maradona got tested positive for 5 variants of ephedrine, a stimulant, and was removed from the World Cup.
On the one hand, athletes use drugs like beta-blockers which makes them calm and reduces their heart rates. On the other hand, athletes also use drugs like stimulants which increase the activity of the Central Nervous System, making a person more alert. They are so different, yet there are only 2 similarities between them. One is that they are very addictive. Both the drugs also have similar side effects, which include insomnia, irritability, tiredness, diarrhoea, nausea, depression and an irregular heartbeat.
After doing the necessary primary and secondary research, I conclude that athletes use PEDs and banned substances for 3 main reasons. The first one is to enhance their performance and stand a better chance in winning the competition. The second reason athletes use PEDs is to gain rewards for instant success such as fame, money, sponsorships, medals and so on. The final reason is because many sporting careers are short, so athletes try to maximise the outcome in the shortest possible time.
Edexcel (9-1) Physical Education, 2nd edition by Tony Scott.