Consequences of Diuretics in Sports

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.

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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.

Consequences of Use

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, dizziness, headaches, muscle cramps and thirst.

Banning Diuretics

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. 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.

Sports and Hydration

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 thirst, lack of urination, sunken eyes, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing and delirium. Taking a diuretic and exerting yourself with athletics can very easily lead to dehydration and life-threatening consequences.