Athletes and Doping
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t understand that many athletes use banned drugs to improve their performance in sport. This is called ” doping” . Or to use more contemporary vernacular, dope. Of those drugs that can be used in practice of doping, none are more widely known than anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS). Sporting agencies have been watching AAS very closely for decades now, of course.
Many have take steps to deal with the issue, often with methodical testing of their athletes for the drugs’ presence. Though arguable some progress has been made to reduce the impact of AAS on sport, these drugs remain pervasive in all types of athletic competition. You might be wondering how athletes still get away with it. While expecting nobody reading this is surprised to see this happens, taking a closer look at the outlined strategies would be worthwhile. Few people actually get a chance to look at the sophisticated methods utilized by athletes. Here’s a rundown of what researchers found.
#1:USE AN UNKNOWN SUBSTANCE (“DESIGNER STEROIDS”)
This could be an anabolic steroid that the sporting authorities have never heard of before. It can also be a steroid they know about, but have yet to understand its metabolism in the body. This alone presents a problem. This unknown agent is what we refer to as a “designer steroid”. It might be hard to believe, but for every anabolic steroid we know about…that we can get a prescription for…there may hundreds that have never been developed. The research books are littered with defunct research steroids; a graveyard of early development. Plus, we are not that far off from 100 years history with steroid synthesis. This is a class of drugs, that structurally speaking, we know a lot about. It is not all that difficult for a creative researcher to envision brand new steroids that have never been synthesized before.
Long story short, there is no shortage of unknown steroids still left out there. Some sports have become more adept at dealing with designer steroids. In particular, looking for hormonal manipulation with things like athlete “passport” biological profiles. In such cases, they may flag a doping incident without actually knowing the agent used. But the number of athletes subject to such extensive analysis is exceedingly small in the grand field of sports. This is Olympic-level stuff, here. Most athletes remain outside this, and may still potentially benefit from designer agents. Legal steroids are another great option -they have no banned substances.
#2:TAKE TESTOSTERONE, MONITOR EPITESTOSTERONE
Testosterone can be a little more difficult to detect than most steroids. The reason is simple. While humans don’t normally produce Dianabol, Winstrol or Anadrol in their bodies, we do all make testosterone. Its presence in the urine is normal, and therefore not immediately suspicious. The primary way that doping officials flag the illegal use of testosterone is by lookecifically epitestosting at its ratio to another hormone in the body, sperone. We call this the T/E ratio.
The two hormones are normally found in our bodies in close amounts. If you are taking a lot of testosterone(test) from an outside source, however, you’re not raising your level of epitestosterone in the process. These rations are quickly disturbed, and thus your use is unveiled. To mask test doping, some athletes will monitor and manage their T/E ratios closely. There are a number of ways to do this. One is to take just enough test, and in just the right dosing pattern, so as to not make the ration go out of range. There is actually quite a bit of allowance for natural variation in the testing. As far as injecting epitestosterone, it is not an FDA approved drug product, as it really serves no thereapeutic purpose.
#3:HCG (HUMAN CHORIONIC GONADOTROPIN
When it comes to muscle building steroids, few hold a candle to testosterone. This means our bodies have the potential to help us dope…if we could only ramp up our production of this powerful hormone enough. Of course, there are ways to do that. One of them involves taking the fertility agent hCG. In men, this drug is a strong stimulator of testosterone release. Furthermore, elevations in the testosterone level in this way are accompanied by increases in epitestosterone. As such, hCG use dose not cause an immediate flag for high testosterone, even if it does raise your levels quite a bit. One warning, though. The drug hCG itself, looked for during many doping screens. Detected in the urine for several days after injection. As such, use carefully planned.
#4: MASKING AGENTS
Masking agents are not doping drugs in of themselves. Instead, used to hide the administration of other doping drug(s). Commonly, this means anabolic steroids. When properly applied, masking agents could allow a competitor to still take certain anabolic steroids close to competition, even throughout competition, without urine testing finding it. Among the most common type of masking agents are those that manipulate the actual body’s metabolism of steroids. Some common masking agents are:
- Probenecid: commonly used in treatment of gout.
- 5-alpha-Reductase Inhibitors: drugs like finasteride and dutasteride-prevent the 5-alpha reduction of steroids.
- Diuretics: agents used to dilute steroid metabolites in the urine.
- Ketoconazole: antifungal medication commonly used to treats ailments of skin and scalp.
#5: THERAPEUTIC USE EXEMPTION
This falls under the category of “legitimizing” anabolic steroid use. Most sports allow their athletes a certain banned substances if these substances also happen to be medications the athlete needs to treat an acute or chronic medical condition. In such cases, the athlete and his or her physician will submit qualifying documentation to the governing body of the sport, to validate such use. If approved, athletes allowed to continue competing while using the banned substance. Often certain provisions will apply.
This research does a good job of reviewing the basic complexities of the doping problem, if not some of the actual ways doping carried out. As you can see, testing athletes for steroid use is not such a simple task. More and more sophisticated testing protocols need applied to keep up with the increasing sophistication of doping methods. If your sport simply doesn’t have the resources to test so vigorously, many loopholes and weaknesses likely remain in the process for athletes to exploit. Of course, as other methods exposed publicly, they are open game to report on. So you can expect to see more reports on this topic in the future. Until then, be careful…be safe.