Health Consequences of Doping

Health Consequences of Doping

Doping may cause for some health consequences as it is clearly indicated bellow.


Prohibited in-competition in some sports, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which slows down the actions of the brain and body. It can reduce tension, inhibition and self control, which may result in an athlete taking risks that he/ she, would not normally take, placing both the subject and others at risk. Continued alcohol consumption can lead to the following health consequences:

  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Double vision
  • Memory and comprehension loss
  • Liver damage
  • Impaired judgement, coordination and reactions
  • Incontinence
  • Sleepiness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Sexual disorders
  • Addiction

Anabolic agents/androgenic steroids

Anabolic agents are the most commonly used drugs in sport. They mimic testosterone, a male hormone.  Examples of this drug include: androstenediol, androstenedione, androsterone, bolandiol, bolasterone, boldenone, clenbuterol, danazol, desoxymethyl testosterone (Madol), testosterone, nandrolone, stanozolol, boldenone and clenbuterol. Anabolic androgenic steroids are natural or artificial versions of the hormone testosterone.

Testosterone is a male sex hormone that is found in large amounts in males and in smaller amounts in females. Testosterone is responsible for stimulating the development of the male reproductive system and the secondary male sexual characteristics such as hairiness and deep voice, and the accelerated growth of muscle and bone.

Anabolic steroids have been used medically to treat patients who suffer from deficiencies in the naturally occurring male sex hormone testosterone, for the treatment of delayed puberty, some types of impotence and breast cancer as well as to treat body wasting caused by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.

The use of anabolic androgenic steroids can have serious effects on a person’s health. The list of potential side effects is long and varied, but may include:

  • Increased risk of liver disease,
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease,
  • Increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS,
  • High blood pressure,
  • Psychological dependence
  • In addition, the following side effects may be found in males:
  • Acne
  • Shrinking of the testicles
  • Reduced sperm production
  • Impotence
  • Infertility
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Breast enlargement
  • Premature baldness
  • Potential kidney and liver dysfunction
  • Libido disorders


The following side effects may be found in females

  • Development of male features
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Excessive hair growth on the face and body
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Increased aggression and mood swings
  • Foetal damage
  • Alteration of libido

Artificial oxygen carriers

Artificial oxygen carriers are chemicals used to increase the ability to carry extra oxygen in the blood. Examples of artificial oxygen carriers include perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and haemoglobin based oxygen carriers (HBOCs). Artificial oxygen carriers are of potential use when human blood is not available, the risk of blood infection is high or when time is too short to properly cross-match the blood of a donor with that of a recipient. Most of these types of products are still undergoing clinical trials, or are available for veterinary use only.

Side effects associated with the use of perfluorocarbons include:

  • A transient fever
  • Reduction in platelet count
  • Blood infection (if preparations are impure)
  • Potential overloading of the white blood cells
  • Embolism (blocked blood vessel)
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stroke
  • Possible side effects of haemoglobin based oxygen carriers include:
  • High blood pressure
  • Vasoconstriction (constriction of the blood vessels)
  • Kidney damage
  • Iron overload

Beta blockers

are used as a relaxant. Examples of this drug include atenolol and nodolol. Beta blockers are substances that decrease the output of blood from the heart. They are used to reduce heart rate, reduce blood pressure and help prevent dilation of the blood vessels. They are similar to alchols. They are used in the management of cardiovascular disorders such as high blood pressure, angina and heart disease. They may also be used in the treatment of migraines and to reduce symptoms of anxiety. The use of beta blockers could be beneficial to athletes in precision sports, such as shooting and archery, as they can reduce heart rate and reduce tremors. Side effects of using beta blockers include:

  • Lowered blood pressure and slow heart rate
  • Constriction of blood vessels in the arms and legs
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Feelings of tiredness and decreased performance capacity in endurance activities
  • Spasm of the airways
  • Heart failure
  • Sleep disorders

Beta-2 Agonists

All selective and non-selective beta-2 agonists, including all optical isomers, are prohibited. This includes all routes of administration (e.g., oral, intravenous, and inhaled). Most inhaled beta-2 agonists are prohibited, including fenoterol, higenamine (Tinosporacrispa), indacaterol. These drugs are commonly used to treat asthma, bronchoconstriction and pulmonary disease, by managing the reversible airway obstruction. Beta-2 Agonists can also be used during premature labour to delay childbirth. They may have effects similar to the use of anabolic agents when used orally or injected, allowing athletes to increase muscle mass, reduce body fat and recover quicker. Possible side effects include:

  • Palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Mood disorders
  • Possible increase in morbidity in those using long-acting Beta2Agonist

Blood doping

Blood doping is the administration of blood or blood-related products in order to increase the number of red blood cells in the body thereby increasing the delivery of oxygen to muscles and enhancing athletic performance. It may involve the use of blood previously withdrawn from the same person or from another person. Medically, red blood cells are administered for the treatment of severe anaemia or blood loss following surgery or severe injury.

Blood doping carries dangerous health risks including:

  • Jaundice
  • Circulatory overload
  • Increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS
  • (if share needles)
  • Septicaemia (blood poisoning)
  • Blood clots, stroke or heart failure
  • Metabolic shock
  • Allergic reactions (ranging from rash or fever to kidney damage) if wrong blood type is used


Cannabinoids are the psychoactive chemicals in the cannabis plant. The most active cannabinoid in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), of which the greatest concentrations are found in the flowering tops and leaves of hemp plants. Cannabinoids can be found in the form of different preparations from the different parts of the cannabis plant, and bearing different names such as marijuana, pot, hashish, resin, oil, etc. Potential therapeutic used of cannabinoids are still being investigated and include analgesia, the prevention of nausea associated with chemotherapy, and muscle relaxation.

Effects of cannabinoids may include:

  • Loss of perception of time and space
  • Drowsiness and hallucinations
  • Reduced vigilance, balance and co-ordination
  • Loss of concentration
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased appetite
  • Mood instability – rapid changes from euphoria to depression

Long-term marijuana use may result in:

  • Loss of attention and motivation
  • Impaired memory and learning abilities
  • Possible weakening of the immune system
  • Respiratory diseases such as lung and throat cancer and chronic bronchitis
  • Psychological dependence


Corticotrophin (adrenocorticotrophion – ACTH) is a naturally occurring hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland to stimulate the secretion of corticosteroids. It has been used medically as a diagnostic tool for malfunctions of the adrenal glands and in the treatment of certain neurological disorders such as infantile spasm and multiple sclerosis.

The short-term side effects of ACTH use include:

  • Stomach irritation
  • Ulcers
  • Irritability
  • Infections

Other side effects may include:

  • Softening of the connective tissue
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia)
  • Reduced resistance to infections
  • Weakening of an injured area in muscles, bones, tendons or ligaments
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cataracts
  • Water retention


Speeds up work of kidneys by producing more urine. This reduces fluid retention, which causes rapid weight loss. Diuretics are agents that help to eliminate fluid and minerals from the body by increasing the production or affecting the composition of urine. They stimulate the kidneys to increase the amount of urine produced to eliminate excess water and electrolytes from the body. Diuretics are used to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and disease of the kidney. They can help to reduce tissue swelling that is caused by fluid retention. Diuretics may be used by athletes to mask the use of other prohibited substances, such as steroids. They may also be used by athletes to meet weight requirements for sports such as weightlifting, boxing, judo.exa.acetazolamide, albumin, amiloride, bumetanide, canrenone, chlorthalidone, chlorothiazide, desmopressin (DDAVP), dextran, eplerenone, furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide/thiazides, hydroxyethyl starch, indapamide, mannitol, metolazone, probenecid, spironolactone, tolvaptan, conivaptan, & elated plasma expanders or diuretics;)

Some side effects include:

  • Dizziness or even fainting
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of co-ordination and balance
  • Confusion, mental changes or moodiness
  • Cardiac disorders

Erythropoietin (EPO)

EPO is a hormone produced by the kidneys that stimulates the production of red blood cells. In medical practice, a synthetic form of EPO is used to treat patients suffering from the anaemia that can be associated with chronic renal failure. From a sport perspective, EPO delivers more oxygen to the muscles and, therefore allows the athlete to perform at a higher level.

Some of the serious health risks associated with the use of EPO include:

  • Thickened blood
  • Increased risk of blood clots, stroke and heart attacks
  • Increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS (from needles)

Risk of developing, as an autoimmune reaction, EPO antibodies that can definitively destroy the EPO that is produced naturally by the body

Gene doping

Gene doping is the non-therapeutic use of genes, genetic elements and/or cells that have the capacity to enhance athletic performance. For instance, a synthetic gene or genetically modified cells are introduced into the body in order to produce a factor or induce a response, which will improve performance. The uses of gene transfer are still in the early stages of research. It is intended that gene transfer will permit replacing or altering missing, damaged or diseased genes in patients with serious illnesses. Since most gene transfer technologies are still in experimental phases, the long-term effects of altering the body’s genetic material are unknown, although several deaths have already occurred during experimentation.

Some of the potential side effects of gene doping are:

  • Cancer development
  • Allergy
  • Metabolic deregulations


Substances produced by the adrenal gland that are able to regulate numerous functions in the body and, in particular, inflammation. When administered systematically (into the blood), they can produce a feeling of euphoria. Gulucocorticosteroids are the most powerful anti-inflammatory agents available in medicine and are used in the treatment of numerous non-infectious diseases that are characterised by pathologically inappropriate immune or inflammatory reactions. They also relieve pain. They are commonly used to treat asthma, hay fever, tissue inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. When administered into the blood stream, glucocorticosteroids have numerous side effects, involving different body systems.

Possible side effects of large doses of glucocorticosteroids include:

  • Fluid retention
  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Osteoporosis (abnormal loss of bone tissue resulting in fragile porous bones)
  • Weakening of injured areas in muscle, bone, tendon or ligament
  • Disorders of the nervous system, such as convulsions and muscle cramps
  • Decrease in or cessation of growth in young people
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Heartburn, regurgitation and gastric ulcers
  • Softening of connective tissue (such as tendons and ligaments)
  • Alteration to the walls of blood vessels, which could result in formation of blood clots
  • Psychiatric disorders, such as changes in mood and insomnia


These hormones include luteinizing hormone (LH) produced by the pituitary gland, and human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) produced by the placenta during pregnancy. They stimulate the functioning of the testes and ovaries as well as the production of hormones in both males and females. Medically, gonadotrophins are used in the treatment of fertility disorders in both women and men as well as in cases of non-descended testes and in the treatment of delayed puberty. As hCG stimulates the production of testosterone, the side effects can be similar to those experienced from anabolic steroid use.

Other side effects of gonadotropins use include:

  • Bone and joint pain
  • Hot flushes
  • Decrease in libido
  • Impotence
  • Allergic reactions and rash
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Tiredness

Growth hormone and insulin-like growth factors

Human growth hormone (hGH) is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland below the brain, which has the potential to stimulate growth. The majority of the growthpromoting effects of hGH are mediated by insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a hormone secreted by the liver and other tissues in response to hGH. hGH and IGF-1 are necessary for the normal growth of children and the maintenance of normal body composition and metabolism in adults. Medically, hGH is used to treat children whose pituitary gland does not produce enough growth hormone to allow normal growth to occur. Since 1989, it has been shown to be effective in treating adults with growth hormone deficiency, a severe medical condition. As a result, athlete may use hGH to increase muscle-mass.

There are dangerous side-effects related to the use of these substances, including:

  • Tremors, sweat, anxiety
  • Worsening of cardiovascular diseases
  • Increasing development of tumours
  • Cardiomegaly (abnormal enlargement of the heart)
  • Accelerated osteoarthritis (chronic breakdown of cartilage in the joints)
  • Acromegaly in adults (distorted growth of internal organs, bones and facial
  • features and the enlargement and thickening of fingers, toes, ears and skin)
  • Muscle, joint and bone pain
  • Hypertension
  • Fluid retention
  • Diabetes in individuals who may already be prone to the disease
  • Gigantism in young people (excessive growth of the skeleton)


A hormone produced by the pancreas and involved in the regulation of blood sugarlevels, insulin acts on the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Medically,insulin is used in the management of diabetes. The side effects of insulin use fornon-medical purposes are severe and include low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia),

which in turn may cause:

  • Hypoglycaemic tremors
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Drowsiness
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Coma
  • Brain damage and death


This enables athletes to get back into action quickly after an injury. They act as painkillers. Narcotics act on the brain and spinal cord to reduce feelings of pain. Narcotics hold a variety of uses in medicine, including to relieve pain, as sedatives, or to treat coughs or respiratory distress in terminally ill patients. The use of narcotics to reduce or eliminate pain can be dangerous as the substance is merely hiding the pain. With the false sense of security caused by narcotics, the user may ignore a potentially serious injury, and continue activity, risking further damage or causing permanent damage. Apart from the risk of further or permanent damage, narcotics can have other dangerous side effects, such as:

  • Slowed breathing rate                                            
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Sleepiness
  • Loss of balance, co-ordination and concentration
  • Euphoria
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Physical and psychological dependence, leading to addiction
  • Suppression of the respiratory system and death


Substances that act on the central nervous system to stimulate the body both mentally and/or physically, examples of stimulants are amphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Stimulants have many and varied uses in conventional medicine. They are used for conditions affecting the cardiovascular system, such as shock, heart attack, slow heart rate (bradycardia), loss blood pressure and to stop minor bleeding. Stimulants are also used to treat respiratory disorders, nasal congestion and the common cold. Other stimulants are used in the management of narcolepsy (excessive daytime sleepiness) and the management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Athletes may use stimulants to improve endurance, reduce fatigue and increase aggressiveness. Those trying to qualify for a lower weight class may use stimulants to suppress appetite. The use of certain stimulants can cause serious cardiovascular and psychological

problems, as well as various other side effects, such as:

  • Overheating of the body
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased and irregular heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Increased risk of stroke, cardiac arrhythmia and heart attack
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety and aggression
  • Weight loss
  • Problems with co-ordination and balance
  • Tremors (involuntary trembling or shaking)
  • Can result in dependence and addiction

Peptide hormones, mimetics and analogues

are synthetic substances that copy natural hormones in the body. Examples of these drugs include: Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and erythropoietin (EPO). EPO promotes the production of red blood cells and therefore increases the amount of oxygen the blood can transport at any one time. More oxygen is provided to the muscles which allows the athlete to work longer and harder. EPO thickens the blood, inhibiting circulation, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Masking agents

are taken to hide the presence of another drug, which would otherwise disqualify the performer. Examples of this drug include epitestosterone, probenecid and diuretics.Some masking agents do not appear on the list of banned substances for particular sports, so their presence is legal.

Narcotic analgesics

are addictive drugs and are usually injected into the blood stream. Examples of these drugs include: heroin, methadone, pethidine, morphine and codeine.

Side-effects can include:

  • Loss of concentration.
  • Loss of balance.
  • Loss of coordination making sport dangerous.

..Using these drugs can make an injury worse. They are also highly addictive.

Effects can include:

  • Reduces the sensation of the central nervous system (CNS) so helps pain relief.
  • Masks pain so athlete is back from injury sooner.