Health Consequences of Doping

Note: The text below is for general information purposes only. It is intended for those seeking a basic understanding of some of the effects of certain substances and methods. Science, substances and methods, and the manner in which substances and methods are used are, however, in constant evolution.  For up-to-date and more detailed information, the reader should consult with an expert with the appropriate scientific background and experience.

General Comments on Health Consequences of Doping

Consequences of dopingIt is very difficult to determine the exact side effects that a substance or a method or combination thereof may have on an athlete who is doping.  This is partly because:
The relevant studies cannot be conducted on individuals without a therapeutic reason to do so;

  • The substances or methods used by doping athletes are usually developed for patients with well-defined disease conditions and are not intended for use by healthy people;
  • Volunteers in a therapeutic study are unlikely to be subjected to the same conditions of administration and dosage of a substance and/or method as those of an athlete who is doping;
  • Athletes who use prohibited substances often take them in significantly larger doses, and more frequently, than these substances would be prescribed for therapeutic purposes, and often use them in combination with other substances; and
  • substances that are sold to athletes as performance enhancers are often manufactured illegally and may therefore contain impurities or additives, which can cause serious health problems or may even be fatal.

Because the many combinations and/or doses of performance enhancing substances used by doping athletes have never undergone official trials, for an athlete to acquiesce to doping is to accept being a guinea pig and to risk adverse effects of unknown nature and unknown gravity. The adverse effects outlined in this document are likely to be the very least of those that may be expected. The actual adverse effects and side effects of using large doses and drugs in combination with others are likely to be much more severe and serious. Using combinations of several drugs means not simply adding but compounding the risks.

Since hormones play multiple roles in the human organism’s regulatory functions, the non-therapeutic use of any type of hormone risks creating an imbalance that affects several functions, and not only the function that is usually directly concerned by the given hormone.  
Additional health risks are present when the use of substances or methods involves injections. Non-sterile injection techniques, including sharing possibly contaminated needles can increase the risk of transmission of infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.  

Finally, use of any substance may also lead to addiction, whether psychological or physiological.