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Performance enhancing drugs are used by athletes in an attempt to improve strength, endurance, quickness and resilience to injury 1. While some of these drugs are approved for other purposes, or are synthetic forms of naturally-occurring substances in the body, they may still cause harmful and serious side effects.
Anabolic and Androgenic Agents
Anabolic agents are those that promote the growth of muscle, while androgenic agents are those that promote the development of male characteristics such as a deep voice and facial hair. Testosterone is an anabolic-androgenic steroid found naturally in the body that may also be taken by some to boost athletic performance, according to the Mayo Clinic 1. Other anabolic-androgenic drugs that can be taken orally, injected or applied topically include methyltestosterone, oxandrolone and oxymetholone. The Mayo Clinic advises that a particularly dangerous group of “designer” performance enhancing drugs that have received no safety testing include tetrahydrogestrinone, desoxymethyltestosterone and norbolethone 1.
Hormones and Hormone Antagonists
Among males, chorionic gonadotrophin, luteinizing hormone and corticotrophins--hormones that increase production of male sex hormones and other hormones that affect the balance of electrolytes in the body--are also performance enhancing hormones 1. Certain insulins and growth hormones may also be used to influence athletic performance. These include:
- insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1)
- growth hormone (GH)
- platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)
- mechano growth factors (MGFs)
- fibroblast growth factors (FGFs)
- hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)
- vascular-endothelial growth factor (VEGF)
- according to the World Anti-Doping Agency 3
In a process sometimes referred to as “blood spinning,” some people may also inject specially-prepared platelet-rich plasma preparations high in growth hormone into the muscle to shorten healing time from injuries.
Diuretics and Masking Agents
Diuretics alter the balance of naturally-occurring minerals such as sodium and potassium in the body, flushing the body of excess water. This can lead to weight loss and can also dilute the urine and mask the effects of other illicit drug use. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, diuretics include furosemide, amiloride, triamterene, spironolactone, canrenone, indapamide, bumetanide, acetazolamide, chlorthalidone, etacrynic acid, metolazone, and thiazides such as:
- chlorothiazide 3
Other masking agents sometimes used include probenecid and intravenous albumin, mannitol, dextran or hydroxyethl starch.
Creatine is a nutritional supplement available over-the-counter in powder or pill form. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is some evidence that creatine may help to delay muscle exhaustion and improve short bursts of muscular power; however, there is no data to suggest it improves aerobic or muscular endurance.
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