Why Do Athletes Use HCG?

Athletes have been using drugs related to performance since the ancient Greeks. Way back in 776 B. C., some used hallucinogens and ate animal testicles to get better according to ProCon.org 1. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin or HCG is used by athletes to minimize some of the side effects of anabolic steroids, manipulate testosterone levels to mask steroid use, and build muscle.

The Lowdown on HCG

The HCG hormone's real purpose is to develop the egg in a woman's ovary. Pregnancy tests usually check a woman's HCG levels. Because it can alter testosterone levels in men, HCG was banned by the International Olympic Committee in 1987. It was also banned by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Numerous athletes have failed HCG tests. For example, in May 2010, baseball player Manny Ramirez and Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing were suspended for using HCG.

Cover Up

Steroid use is the most widely known way athletes bulk up their bodies. But drug tests can detect the presence of synthetic testosterone. Athletes use HCG to stimulate the body's natural production of testosterone, which disguises the presence of synthetic testosterone according to the "Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism." This may help a person beat a drug test.

Kick Starting Production

Prolonged steroid use upsets the athlete's hormonal balance and induces the body to shut down its production of testosterone. This can lead to shrunken testicles and depressed sperm production. The thinking is HCG can reverse this unwanted side effect and kick start the body's production of testosterone. According to the University of Washington, low doses of HCG may help maintain testosterone production 7. A case study of a steroid-using bodybuilder published in the January 1998 issue of the "Postgraduate Medical Journal," concluded that HCG restored his testosterone and sperm production 2.

The HCG Myth

Some athletes have used HCG to artificially boost their testosterone levels before competition. They think this increases muscle strength and may help improve their performance. However, according to Andrew Kicman of the King's College London Drug Control Center, the increase in testosterone levels is minimal compared to other doping methods and lasts for only a few days.