Those drugs that are consumed to give better results in any sporting activity are known as performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). The presence of drugs such as anabolic steroids and human growth hormone (hGH) is found at both the levels of sporting excellence, professional and amateur [1].

Stimulants such as amphetamines and over the counter supplements such as androstenedione also come under the ambit of performance enhancing drugs [2].


Time period : Event

776 - 393 B.C.E.: Consumption of performance enhancing drugs in the Olympics by ancient Greeks
100 A.D.: In ancient Rome, ingestion of stimulants and hallucinogens by gladiators to increase endurance levels
Late 19th century: The French cyclists used Coca and Cocaine to put off fatigue caused by extended physical exercise
1904 - 1920: Introduction of PEDs in modern Olympics
1928 : Doping banned by the International Association of Athletics Federation- pioneering work by any sporting set-up
1950s: Amphetamines came into sports which were previously consumed by WWII soldiers
1958 : Dianabol, an anabolic steroid, gets FDA approval
1968 : Athletes were tested for the first time for doping in the Winter Olympic Games
1975 : Addition of a banned substance to the IOC’s list- Anabolic steroid
1988 : Anti-Drug Abuse Act comes into effect in the US
1999 : World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) comes into existence
2002 : Designer steroid, norbolethone, found out for the very first time by Dr. Catlin
2004 : Anabolic Steroid Control Act comes into existence. Caffeine taken out from the ‘Banned Substances’ list [3].


Athletes who indulge in doping are way ahead of their peers in the final results of any competition. If consumption of performance enhancing drugs is legalized, one would see the risks in the health of athletes being brought down; crime rates would also reduce along with resources being utilized for better purposes. It is better if these drugs are consumed when athletes are monitored by medicos as it would be easier for them to determine the trough & the danger levels of various drugs.

A loophole in the legalization process is that some sports-persons have a genetic advantage and hence their fitness levels are higher than their counterparts. E.g. Eero Maentyranta had higher RBC counts through genetic mutation. Hence the question arises: Is there an undue advantage for athletes who are naturally fitter and consume drugs than those who refrain from it? Or is it only due to the ‘natural advantage’ possessed by such athletes? Many more studies are required to provide answers to the above questions [4].


There should be no mix up conceptually between ‘blood doping’ and ‘normal doping’. A lot of ifs and buts exist for a drug to be present in blood doping. When the red blood cells are raised to higher levels unnaturally it is known as blood doping. Haematocrit is the percentage of red blood cells in the blood. The set haematocrit level in the blood is 50% currently for sportspersons; if one crosses this level, blood doping charges can be applied to him or her. Athletes have to undergo continuous and extended testing to prove that the high haematocrit level is a natural phenomenon.

Blood doping can be performed in two ways: injection of red blood cells from an outside source or by consuming drugs. The end result of both the methods can be quite harmful if carried out in an unregulated manner and without proper precautions [5].


1. Erythropoietin: The hormone erythropoietin is manufactured in the human body by the kidneys. When the kidney function is compromised, consuming erythropoietin from an outside source becomes a necessity (the hormone raises the levels of RBC in the blood which, transports oxygen in the entire body). Synthetic erythropoietin was first manufactured in 1985. Many sportspersons realized the importance of this hormone and started consuming it illegally (blood doping). The harmful effects of this hormone are seen in the form of stroke, pulmonary edema etc. ‘Biological passport’ is a weapon with which relevant authorities can fight the menace of blood doping [6].

2. Human Growth Hormone (hGH): Medicos started prescribing human growth hormone (hGH) in 1985, after the US FDA okayed its application in a number of situations that resulted in deteriorating muscles or diminished growth. Sportspersons started to use it as a PED as it could copy anabolic steroids in building muscles. In today’s times, hGH can be obtained from a wide variety of openings such as illegal websites, pharmacies on the internet etc. The adverse effects of hGH use are weakness in the muscles, retention of fluids etc [7].

3. Beta blockers: Beta blockers such as propanolol have found an entry into sports such as pistol shooting as well as archery. These sports require an athlete’s hand to be steady so that they can get favourable results. Beta blockers block the results of the hormone, epinephrine- that raises the levels of circulating blood in the body. This helps the athletes in the relaxation process by reducing the sweat and trembling of the hands [8].


In the future, sportspersons could make use of the following PEDs to achieve various targets-

1. Lean Mass Builders: Instead of steroids, genes could be manipulated that instruct myostatin in the muscles, the appropriate time to stop growth. Mr. Lee of John Hopkins Medical School raised the muscle mass of the mice to twice the levels, without making them exert more inside 6 weeks.

2. Stimulants: In the time to come, stimulants would be developed with no adverse effects to make the athletes achieve even higher targets that they set for themselves.

3. Pain killers: In the years to come, one might see scientists taking the contributions of nanotechnology to newer heights. Respirocytes or artificial red blood cells have been envisioned that could take the place of the human respiratory system. Such nanobots could transport oxygen 236 times more than the capability of normal RBCs. The seemingly impossible situation of an athlete holding his or her breath for 4 hours below the surface of water might become a reality [9].











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