Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Banned Performace Enhancing Drug Classes

The IOC has banned participating athletes from using drugs to enhance their performance. What is the purpose of this policy? Surely technology offers athletes many ways to enhance their performance. If the issue is fairness, I can see similarities between the new speedo swim suits and performance enhancing drugs. If the issue is athlete health, which seems more reasonable to me, is there not health consequences of training to olympic levels in the first place? Young female gymnasts seem to experience at least some negative health consequences of training.
From the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA):
"...Clean Athletes are the real heroes who make brave choices everyday by not doping. They deserve competition that is safe and fair. They deserve a level playing field."

In any case, back to science, here's a Ben Johnson's breakfast of all that you can't indulge in if your are an elite olympic athlete:
Anabolic Agents: Most importantly this includes small molecule steroids related to testosterone. These agents increase your muscle mass and red blood cell numbers. This makes them excellent for improving performance in strength requiring events. Obviously these agents have masculinizing effects. The scary side-effect of shrinking testicles is temporary, however the long term effects include undesirable cardiovascular effects. They can also cause you to start growing a beard if your are a woman and initiate male pattern baldness early. This category also includes steroids used to treat asthma, Beta-2 agonists. These drugs increase lean muscle mass, and also have some stimulant properties. A therapeutic use exemption can be obtained if you are asthmatic.
Blood doping: Blood doping means increasing the oxygen carrying capacity of your blood by increasing the number of red blood cells (RBCs) in your body. This is great for endurance sports. This can be done by harvesting RBCs, storing them, then re-administering to the athlete before competition. This is pretty old school now and more common is the use of erythropoeitin (EPO). EPO is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth of RBCs. It has medicinal uses and therefore is cloned and available. Detection is difficult but possible. Too much RBCs makes your heart work hard and apparently if you are an elite athlete with a low resting heart rate and too many RBCs you can die in your sleep.
Peptide hormones: There are many hormones that may give an athlete an unfair advantage. The previously mentioned EPO and additionally other growth hormones that increase muscle weight. This includes insulin, and surprisingly I didn't see a therapeutic use exception for exogenous insulin for diabetics. I would assume there is.
Stimulants: Caffine is fine, but go easy on the cocaine. These increase heart rate and thereby bloodflow and increase metal alertness. I would think the most commonly used stimulant as a performance enhancer is ephedrine, but only because I have heard about it the most.
Diuretics: Diuretics are used to increase urination to loose weight. Good for being the largest guy in the smallest weight category. These drugs are also used to eliminate drugs from your system also known as a masking agent.
Narcotic Analgesics: 'No pain, no gain', however without without the pain, it is all gain. Opiates are probably the most commonly used narcotics to overcome injury or train for longer periods that would normally cause pain.
Gene Doping: This is the newest category and I know if there are any examples. But my guess is that you could use some techniques to genetically increase EPO or another of the above protein products in an athlete. From WADA:
"The non-therapeutic use of cells, genes, genetic elements, or of the modulation of gene expression, having the capacity to enhance athletic performance, is prohibited."
If you are wondering about your particular prescription make sure to check the complete list of banned substances from the World Anti-Doping Agency. If it's on the list, increase your dose before any competitive event, winning is everything.


Mike Spear said...

As a journalist who covered a few Olympics including Ben Johnson's Championship breakfast, I can look back and say a medal win gave us a great excuse to party and suspend our journalistic objectivity for a few hours. The next day when he crashed and burned meant a whole lot more work trying to remember high school and science-option biology to report on his positive test results.
So drug-free or drug-assisted, the least we can do is establish the ground rules once and for all and make life easier for the media!

rob said...

I think your comment suggests that when there is a science issue, journalists should really consult a scientist from a local university or college to get the facts straight. We here at the bayblab get all in a huff when the MSM get their science all messed up. However you belong to the DNA network so I'm sure you are all good.
Just in case you are wondering if the Bayblab is a little too good, we are not using blogging performance enhancing anything here at the Bayblab, and all members strictly adhere to the Bavarian purity law of 1516.

The Doc said...

Caffeine is ok with a limit. I seem to recall that the limit is rather low, too... like a second cup of coffee would be bad.