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Why Performance Enhancing Drugs Must Be Banned

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Performance-enhancing drugs have existed within sports for centuries which has inevitably resulted in positive and negative impacts on the health of athletes and on sport. Sport has been directly linked to the use of performance-enhancing agents since the original Olympic Games in Greece which was a spectacle that took place between the years 776 to 393 BC. It is widely speculated that “The origin of the word ‘doping’ is attributed to the Dutch word ‘doop’, which is a viscous opium juice, the drug of choice of the ancient Greeks.” (Bowers, 1998). Performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) have become a public issue since it’s ban in most sports but has continued to be used prevalently, resulting in both positive and negative impacts on sport, physical health and psychological well-being. Performance-enhancing drugs or PED’s are dangerous to the health of users and must be banned in all levels of sport.


Performance-enhancing substances have been used in sport to improve an athlete’s strength and speed, which increases their overall performance but has consequently led to an unfair advantage to users, damage to the classic values of sport and negative influences on young athletes. As elite athletes use performance-enhancing drugs, the entertainment factor in watching live sport events would increase, as it would result in athletes unlocking a new level of potential. There are also cases in which the non-use of performance enhancing drugs by athletes could mean they are refraining from competing seriously. An extremely competitive sport such as professional bodybuilding requires constant muscle growth by athletes. An athlete that participates at professional bodybuilding has almost no choice but to resort to performance enhancing substances if they wish to participate competitively. It has been stated that, “Many involved in bodybuilding competitions believe they cannot compete without using steroids in order to reach what they describe as their potential,” (Redwood, 1995). Therefore, in this case, performance-enhancing drugs may be perceived to be necessary. Allowing elite athletes to utilise performance-enhancing drugs would dramatically increase the entertainment in live sport events especially in sports such as rugby, basketball, boxing and football. Fost (2005) suggests that the concept that performance-enhancing drugs provide an unfair advantage presents no coherent evidence or argument to support it. He further states, “What is more fair – the use of a team of sports specialists or a simple pill? What is the difference between training at altitude and taking erythropoietin to achieve a similar effect?” (Fost, 2005). Legalising PED’s in sport would increase the entertainment factor, However, PED use in sport would result in sports losing its spirit of fairness and becoming a competition to access the best substances, as well as providing negative role models to children and teenagers. For centuries the spirit of sport has evolved around “ethics, fair play and honesty,” (WADA, 2003) and legalising steroid use would eradicate these values in sport. Since its introduction In elite level sport, PED’s have been used not to provide fairness to the user, but to provide a physically unfair advantage with the hopes of its use by the athlete being unknown,” (Pound, 2008). Exposure of its unfair nature was first recognised when “the International amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) became the first ever organisation to prohibit the use of performance enhancing drugs,” (Mottram, 2010). The prohibition made first by the IAAF and other organisations afterwards was to ensure that sport would remain as a challenge of talent and skill, along with tests of dedication and character of the athlete. If organisations decide to legalise performance enhancing drug use, “sporting events would increasingly become tests of rivals’ access to good pharmaceutical technology” (Dixon, 2008) rather than skill or ability in the sport. If usage of performance-enhancing substances become more prevalent in sporting leagues, the fans and viewers of professional sport would perceive the role of skill replaced by substances and therefore would lose interest in the sport, financially harming sporting leagues and competitions. -( Dixon, 2008). It is widely known that young athletes emulate the elite professionals. Therefore, steroid use by professional athletes will result in young athletes assuming that PED’s are normal and that it is a part becoming an elite athlete. -(Schwab, 2002). in order to maintain the classic values of sport and to ensure young athletes do not perceive drug use as normal behaviour, performance enhancing drug use in sport must be banned and condemned as a serious crime.

Performance enhancing substances provide physical benefits to the user but also introduce risks to physical well-being (Navidinia and Ebadi, 2017). Athletes use PED’s in order to utilise its effect of increasing exercise capacity, allowing athletes to withstand excessively large amounts of resistance training as well as cardiovascular exercise resulting in increased lung capacity, overall strength, muscle mass and density. Athletes also utilise the effects of performance enhancing substances to dispute against injuries and accelerate the healing process of injuries- (Mayo Clinic, 2019). In 2004, a group of scientists who remained anonymous selected 12 websites and posted an anonymous survey targeted at PED users. The survey results showed that over 75% of the participants of the survey were non-professional athletes,” (Evans and Parkinson, 2006). This indicates that the main purpose behind steroid use is for aesthetic benefits. Most people who exercise regularly for prolonged periods of time struggle to achieve the body aesthetics they desire due to genetic disadvantages. Research has shown that muscles require a minimum of 24 hours of resting recovery time in order for the muscle to recuperate to full health -(white, 2019). Performance-enhancing drugs allow athletes to shorten this ‘recovery time’ and begin there next exercise regime almost immediately meaning it will allow professional and amateur athletes to achieve the athletic performance or body they want in a shorter time span. This would grant time to focus on other important aspects of life such as the progress of their studies or their respected career ambitions. However, although the (chemicals) in PED’s result in changes to the body such as quicker recovery from exercise in the muscle cells, further effects of these substances indicate a large amount of side effects and short term and permanent, irreversible long-term impacts on physical health. The anonymous survey further revealed that ”99.2% or 496/500 participants reported subjective side effects” and “70% (355/500) experienced at least three or more of these complications,” (Evans and Parkinson, 2006). The research has clearly shown that using steroids introduces a large probability of experiencing at least one immediate negative side effect and a very large amount of short-term impacts on health. Short term physical impacts on men involve changes in glucose concentration, sex hormones, liver enzymes,” (Navidinia and Ebadi, 2017) as well as reduced sperm count, impotence and testicular shrinkage in men. As for women, menstrual disorders and the development of male characteristics are commonly experienced after short term use. After a prolonged period of using performance enhancing substances, both men and women are susceptible to liver toxicity and liver cancer-(Iliades, 2009). the range of negative health impacts is alarmingly large. The most disturbing effects are not limited to blood clots, fluid retention, high blood pressure, swelling, trembling, reduced sexual function in both men and women and infertility. In addition to these, long term usage on performance enhancing drugs may result in baldness, gynecomastia, prostate cancer and cardiovascular diseases.- (NIDA,2018). Therefore from all the possible repercussions linked to performance enhancing drug use, it is very clear that the negative impacts heavily outweigh the positive changes that PED’s make to the human body. Thus it is resolutely in the best interest for the physical health of professional athletes competing at the highest levels as well as amateur athletes to ban performance enhancing substance use in sport and strongly condemn its usage.

Athletes who utilise performance enhancing drugs feel more self-confident, and have higher self-perception and self-value compared to non-users, but also are at risk of becoming victims to different psychological health disorders. An Athlete’s perceived levels of self-confidence and self-esteem increases while using performance-enhancing drugs (Vassallo and Olrich, 2011) and experiences a magnification of positive emotions while on the cycle of PED’s. Performance enhancing drug use increases a person’s levels of energy and motivation, self-esteem and social confidence (CISUR, 2015). It may be useful for an athlete who has reached a slump in their performance, or an ordinary individual who participates in recreational sport to utilise the positive mental effects of performance enhancing drugs to recover from poor self-esteem or the lack of social or athletic confidence. Although performance enhancing substances provide boosts to positive psychological emotions and function, research has indicated that performance enhancing drugs are strongly linked to mental disorders. Performance-enhancing drugs use leads to high risk of post usage anxiety and depression, which can lead to engaging in different illicit substances or harmful behaviours. The two most common psychological disorders that PED users suffer from are depression and anxiety, which are suffered in different ways depending on the user. Athletes have various concerns for performance enhancing drug use, the most notable reason is concern for physical appearance, followed by concern for occupational performance or athletic performance. – (Murray et al., 2016) physical appearance is the biggest reason and influence for PED use amongst athletes. “AAS users who experience physical appearance concerns also experience elevated rates of co-morbid psychological dysfunction, eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia”. – (Murray et al., 2016) both of which are mental disorders. Performance-enhancing substance users have a higher probability of attempting and committing suicide and participating in violent or risky behaviour such as violence and murder. In order to guarantee the safety of the psychological health of professional athletes and recreational athletes, all performance enhancing substances must be banned in sport and awareness of the negative impacts on mental health must be raised to educate potential users of its devastating effects on mental health.


Performance enhancing drugs have been used in sport to provide an unfair advantage to its users, has tarnished the reputations of sporting leagues, and disregarded the classic values of sport. The drugs used have resulted in serious physical health problems in long term users that are permanent and irreversible, being the cause of deaths and controversy. The effect on the psychological well-being of athletes who have used PED’s is disturbingly unsafe and can lead to depression and anxiety, which is closely connected to illicit substance abuse, crime and suicide. To preserve the safety of professional athletes and recreational athletes, performance-enhancing drugs should be banned in all sports. detection of use by elite or amateur athletes should be considered a serious crime and awareness should be raised and spread on social media to athletes including teenagers. 

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