Doping is the use of performance-enhancing substances in order to compete in sports. This includes the use of blood doping, pharmacological, chemical or physical manipulation of the athlete. One of the banned substances in the world of sports is diuretics. Used in the medical field for patients with heart failure and kidney problems, these drugs can mask the use of steroids and pose serious health risks to the athlete.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Types of Diuretics
Diuretics are also called water pills, and they act on the body by increasing the amount you urinate. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three types of diuretics: loop, thiazide and potassium-sparing. Loop diuretics, such as furosemide or bumetanide, can lead to a decrease in the amount of potassium in the blood. Potassium-sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone or amiloride, counteract this effect and help keep potassium levels normal. Thiazide diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide or metolazone, can also affect potassium levels.
- Diuretics are also called water pills, and they act on the body by increasing the amount you urinate.
- Potassium-sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone or amiloride, counteract this effect and help keep potassium levels normal.
Consequences of Use
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There are many side effects to using diuretics that could be detrimental to an athlete. The increase in urination and loss of potassium could lead to life-threatening dehydration that cannot be replaced by normal means if diuretics are abused. Even if they are taken under a doctor's care for a medical problem, this side effect is often still a concern. According to the Mayo Clinic, some other side effects include:
- a loss of sodium
- muscle cramps
- There are many side effects to using diuretics that could be detrimental to an athlete.
- The increase in urination and loss of potassium could lead to life-threatening dehydration that cannot be replaced by normal means if diuretics are abused.
Diuretics are banned by most major sports organizations, including in the Olympics and by the World Anti-Doping Agency. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there are two reasons that diuretics are banned 1. First, athletes can use them to cheat in sports where weight is a concern, such as boxing. The diuretics make them lose water weight quickly and allow them to falsely participate in a lower weight class. The second reason is that the increased urination brought about by the drug can dilute the presence of other drug markers in the urine. In this way, it can mask the use of steroids and other banned substances. For this reason, it is banned in most professional and college-level sports.
- Diuretics are banned by most major sports organizations, including in the Olympics and by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
- First, athletes can use them to cheat in sports where weight is a concern, such as boxing.
Sports and Hydration
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It is important to stay hydrated while participating in any sporting or athletic activity, and taking a diuretic works specifically against that. Not only does the drug make you lose fluid, it also upsets the balance of electrolytes, or nutrients, in your blood that your body needs to carry out essential functions. According to the Mayo Clinic, some signs of severe dehydration include:
- lack of urination
- sunken eyes
- rapid heartbeat
- rapid breathing
Taking a diuretic and exerting yourself with athletics can very easily lead to dehydration and life-threatening consequences.
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- Office of National Drug Control Policy; What is Doping?
- Duarte JD, Cooper-DeHoff RM. Mechanisms for blood pressure lowering and metabolic effects of thiazide and thiazide-like diuretics. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2010;8(6):793–802. doi:10.1586/erc.10.27
- U.S. National Library of Medicine, StatPearls. Thiazide Diuretics. Updated February 4, 2019.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine, StatPearls. Loop Diuretics. Updated October 15, 2019.
- Elsevier ScienceDirect. Hypokalemia: Adjuncts to Therapy. Published 2017.
- American Heart Association. Types of Blood Pressure Medications. Reviewed October 31, 2017.
- National Health Service, UK. Furosemide. Reviewed January 10, 2019.
- Johns Hopkins Lupus Center. Blood Pressure Medications (Anti-hypertensives).
- Leone A. Does Smoking Act as a Friend or Enemy of Blood Pressure? Let Release Pandora's Box. Cardiol Res Pract. 2011;2011:264894. Published 2011 Jan 19. doi:10.4061/2011/264894
- Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Tips for Taking Diuretic Medications. Updated September 25, 2019.
- American Heart Association. Changes You Can Make to Manage High Blood Pressure. Reviewed November 30, 2017.
Lynda Lampert began writing professionally in 2000 with the publishing of her romance novel, "My Lady Elizabeth." Her work has also appeared in the "Pittsburgh Tribune Review." Lampert obtained an associate's degree in nursing from Mercyhurst College Northeast.