The Ugly Side of Sports: 5 Very Real Dangers of PED Abuse

Some athletes are willing to go to extremes to gain an edge on the competition.

Not long ago, an independent report blew the lid off an alleged "state-sponsored doping program" in Russia. If proven to be true, Russia's use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) would essentially disqualify all their track and field athletes from the 2016 Olympic Games.

Not surprisingly, this most recent scandal has once again put PED use front-and-center on the world stage.

The Quest to Gain an Edge

In the athletic world - where there is constant pressure to be the fastest and the strongest - more and more athletes are turning to PEDs in order to gain a competitive edge. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency code, adopted by over 600 sports organizations (including the International Olympic Committee), there are 192 banned performance enhancing substances and methods.

The most commonly abused of these substances and methods are:

  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Growth Hormones
  • Narcotics

Over the years, a number of athletes have found themselves caught up in steroid and doping scandals. The most notable of those names include the likes of Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson and Marion Jones. What is seldom discussed, however, are the serious long-term effects brought on by PED abuse.

With that in mind, let's take a look at 5 little-known dangers that go hand-in-hand with PED abuse:

#1   Liver Cancer

Anabolic steroids, a common performance enhancing drug, that, when abused, are known to cause a number of health problems. Liver damage from anabolic steroids can cause a condition called cholestasis, where bile leaks out into one’s blood. Also, PED abuse can cause the formation of tumors in the liver, called hepatic adenomas. Recent studies show that more severe health issues, such as liver cancer, have been linked to anabolic steroid abuse. Once a rare occurrence, the number of cases have increased among those that participate in competitive sports. Existing reports show a slight increased risk of developing liver cancer with long-term use of high-dose anabolic steroids.

#2   Stunted Growth

projectknow-shutter227224552-skateboardingA 2014 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study revealed a significant increase in the use of synthetic human growth hormones (hGH) among teens. The hormone hGh occurs naturally in the body; its job is to stimulate and regulate body composition, muscle/bone growth and cell production in children. The abuse of hGH - along with other PED’s such as creatine and steroids - can severely stunt growth development and worsen acne.

#3   Low Sperm Count

In order to pass drug tests, some athletes resort to the dark side of PED abuse: designer and synthetic drugs. These concoctions, claiming to be a "synthetic form" of anabolic steroids, are illicitly created and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Long-term abuse of designer steroids pose several side effects, including decreased libido, impotence and low sperm counts in men. Once male athletes stop abusing these drugs, it is possible to see a normal sperm count resume, however the longer the abuse and the higher the dosage, the fertility issues can become irreversible.

#4   Severe Depression

Another classic danger posed by PED abuse comes in the form of psychological issues, the most common including mood swings or an increased aggression, known as “roid rage.” However, a sudden withdrawal from PEDs can have devastating consequences. Several studies have noted a major connection between steroid use and depression, includingthoughts of suicide.

#5   Breast and Facial Hair Development

Using anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) changes the natural balance of testosterone in the body. Men using high dosages of AAS can experience breast development due to increased estrogen levels. Women who abuse AAS may begin to bald while, simultaneously, grow facial hair.

Image Source: iStock

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