Doping scandals crop up in small amounts here and there, some unsurprising, some totally tragic. But with the summer Olympics right around the corner, it’s hard not to speculate what might surface in larger numbers. Athletes, whose amazing performances in events on the world stage turn them into demigods by society’s standards, can fall from grace just as quickly when they’re exposed for doping. So what’s the real deal behind these performance-enhancing drugs? What makes them so alluring to athletes that they’d risk the credibility of their entire career to use them? Well, here’s the scoop on five of the most common performance-enhancers to help us understand what the big deal is.
Marion Jones was stripped of her five track an field Olympic medals in 2007 after coming up positive for use of THG. THG stands for tetrahydrogestrinone, and is an anabolic steroid that was — at the time — designed to be undetectable by drug tests. The steroid does what steroids do, pumps up protein production, builds muscle, aids in recovery, and does other things women’s bodies aren’t built to do, like grow hair. The extra testosterone also causes an increase in aggression.
An earlier and more female-friendly steroid used widely in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics was Nandrolone. It’s milder, but still does all the stuff steroids do. Being that it had fewer androgenic effects, it appealed to athletes across the board, with a total of seven athletes getting nailed for coming back positive. Oh yeah, and this one is the injectable kind… ew.
Ephedrine is a name that rings a bell for a lot of us as a chemical present in the notoriously disgusting recipe for crystal meth. And for similar reasons: It improves reaction time, kills your appetite and increases metabolic rate. Swimmers are typically flagged for this one.
Here’s a curve ball: Furosemide is a “water pill” that helps other drugs hide from tests. Unfortunately, as one might expect this plan backfired at the Seoul and Sydney Olympic games. Bulgarian weight-lifters were using the drug to disguise the use of other performance-enhancers, basically throwing a red flag that there was… something to hide. Just this week the favorite (albeit highly suspicious) frontrunner for track, Moroccan athlete Mariem Alaoui Selsouli was disqualified for testing positive for Furosemide.
Propranolol is a drug that takes a different approach. Instead of pumping up your acuteness and building muscle, it’s a drug that’s supposed to lower your base blood pressure and block adrenaline — so you don’t freak out. In fact, the main athlete linked to the drug was in the air pistol shooting event, North Korean Kim Jong-su. Side effects are that it can make you go catatonic, and acquire long-term depression.
Athletes aren’t just desperate for an edge, they’re under a tremendous amount of pressure, and I have to admit they’re pretty darn creative with their illicit solutions. From bulking up to calming down, I guess anything can help curb the intense pressure to succeed on behalf of one’s country. But every year the Olympics take place, more drugs are added to the banned list. I suppose the people in charge are just trying to make it fair for everyone, which is definitely understandable.
Lovelies, are you a fan of the Olympics? Would you feel betrayed if your favorite athlete tested positive for doping?