Performance Enhancing Drugs

If your job was to win races would you be willing to break the rules? Would you take performance enhancing drugs? Would you use ergogenic or performance enhancing aids? July means the Tour de France and many people associate cycling with performance enhancing drugs, while this may be true it is not limited to professional cycling. 

Baked goods don’t count as Performance Enhancing Drugs.

It appears that more recreational athletes use drugs than the pros.

There are numerous cases of recreational athletes being busted for taking drugs in many sports. Drug testing in recreational athletes, even in high schools, hasn’t proven effective. It hasn’t stopped drug use. 

A study of recreational athletes in Australia showed that 8% of recreational athletes had tried some type of recreational or performance enhancing drugs compared to less than 1% of professional athletes that were caught using any type of drugs.

Like the equipment, clothing and sports drinks that recreational athletes can purchase to be “better” and more like their favourite athletes, they are using the same drugs for performance enhancing benefits. 

But, unlike professional athletes whose careers are short and the competition is high, recreational athletes don’t depend on their sport for their livelihood. You might wonder why you would risk your health for momentary glory. Especially when the latest research on blood doping, or EPO, in recreational cyclists, showed no endurance benefits. Dutch researchers used EPO, the hormone that produces more red blood cells and increases oxygen carrying capacity, to test recreational cyclists performance.

Using EPO is popular in endurance sports, but it thickens the blood, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and blood clots.

Seems like a big risk for a recreational athlete.

What did they find in the 48 cyclists, ages 19-50, that were injected weekly with either a placebo or EPO? No difference in endurance. Even though they used similar doses that pro cyclists have been known to use, the recreational cyclists had higher concentrations of red blood cells, which is what thickens the blood. They also found higher power output and oxygen use in the lab.

However, the endurance benefits were non-existent. There was no difference between the doping and clean athletes.

Similar to the findings of  Professor Adam Cohen, at the Centre for Human Drug Research in Leiden, The Netherlands who has studied EPO and has found no evidence of performance benefits, but clear health risks.

In another study of 2,000 recreational cyclists competing in an endurance race in Spain, 8% admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs. For apparently no benefit and a clear risk to their health and fitness.

When Sports Illustrated questioned Olympic athletes about how much they would risk with the question,

“If you were given a performance-enhancing substance, you would not be caught, and you would win, would you take it?”

98% said yes.

When they asked the question,

“If you were given a performance-enhancing substance, and you would not be caught, win all competitions for 5 years, then die, would you take it?”

More than 50% still said yes.

Drugs Free run

Maybe we are wired to win, regardless of the costs or the benefits or we place too much emphasis on our results? It is interesting to me as someone who competes for the personal challenge and exercises for the health benefits that someone would toss that aside for a momentary place on the podium.

What do you think?

Change your mind, change your health,


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