Performance enhancement drugs continue to be a problem in sports. With heated competition on all sides and immense pressure from coaches, parents, and fans, athletes turn to drugs to reach the top in competitions. In turn, government and sporting agencies go to great lengths to stop doping. Still, despite anti-doping rules, random testing, and devastating consequences for the athletes, some athletes are still taking the enormous risk to reach the gold. The problem doesn’t seem to have a solution, either. As anti-doping testers become more stringent, athletes still find ways to beat their tests. Hence, why we keep seeing more and more athletes getting caught. Here are 25 True Facts About Athletes And Performance Enhancement Drugs.
Using performance enhancement drugs or "doping" came to the world's attention when Danish cyclist Knud Enemark Jensen died due to abuse of amphetamines during the 1960 Rome Olympics.
For instance, in the 2003 Dublin Olympics, UK sprinter Dwain Charles used a combination of drugs to improve his performance, recovery time, sluggishness, and reaction time. He was disqualified when it was discovered.
If an athlete is ever tested positive for drugs, they're usually stripped of all their accolades. A prime example is Ben Plucknett, who broke two world records in discus throw, but was stripped of those records when found positive for drugs.
Professional athletes aren't the only ones abusing drugs. It is a systemic problem for all athletes, including high school and college age students. For instance, a study found that .7% to 6.6% of high school students used anabolic steroids in one year.
Despite the efforts of the World Anti-Doping Agency and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to combat doping in professional sports, the Anti-Doping Database found that cases of doping has only increased in recent years.
While doping became of particular interest in the 1960's, it has its roots in ancient sports. The Ancient Greeks would eat animal hearts and testicles, take fungi and hallucinogenic potions to give them an edge.
If an Olympic athlete is ever caught doping, their medals are taken away and the athlete next in line receives it instead. Since 1968, 25 athletes who should have won gold received the medal retroactively after a doping case. After that, there were 41 cases for the silver medal and 56 cases for the bronze.
In the Olympics, across all sports, Russia and Turkey are the most guilty of doping by a wide margin. For example, 225 Russian athletes were found having taken banned substances and that was just in 2013.
While in most cases individual athletes choose doping, Russia is a very different animal with whistle-blowers, like Yulia Stepanova, pointing to the Russian government and Vladimir Putin's direct involvement.
For Armstrong, and as it turns out many other cyclists, evading detection from anti-doping testers wasn't all that complicated. In many cases, drug testing checks were so poor, all Armstrong had to do was not answer the door when they knocked, literally.
So, how exactly do doping athletes beat drug testing? Naturally, most assume urine replacement, and they'd be correct. One popular kit is called "The Whizzinator," complete with clean urine, warming packs, and a prosthetic penis.
Testing for EPO, however, has become much more stringent. To get around it, some athletes turned to blood transfusions or "blood doping" to enhance performance. Athletes will either donate their own blood and use it before a competition or use the blood of another athlete. Transfusions increase the blood's oxygen carrying capacity.
In the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russian officials often interfered with the drug tests, not signing contracts until the last minute, and not making payments, which made it difficult to find anyone to do the tests. They would also question the testers' credibility and threaten to throw them out of the country.
Because performance enhancing drugs like EPO are so popular, many companies in China, India, and Cuba make copycat versions with slight molecular changes to beat the drug testing fingerprint. Drug testers struggle to keep up with the latest version, giving athletes an edge to beat the tests.
Athletes have gone as far as getting "drug tattoos" to get the gold. The tattoo needles have drugs that are injected into the body, allowing athletes to take smaller doses and not be detected. German research found this method is also 16 times more effective than getting an injection through a vein.