Enhancing Sports Performance: part 3

Amateur and recreational athletes

Recently the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA released details for the 2017 Prohibited List, which will come into effect on 1 January 2017. If you have read part 1 and part 2 of this series of blogs, you might be thinking that illegal doping to enhance sports performance is only of relevance to elite sport. Equally that the discussion of TUEs is only related to elite athletes. Well this blog will explore whether that is the case…

I am writing from a medical perspective based on my experience of working on the international medical research team that investigated the development of dope test for growth hormone GH, supported by the IOC.

The list issued by UK Anti-Doping UKAD of athletes banned from competition due to taking illegal performance enhancing drugs dispels the assumption that doping is confined to elite athletes. Indeed it is concerning that the list is substantial and includes a range of athletes from teenagers to age groupers across a variety of sports. Consider that this only shows results from sports where drug testing takes place.

As discussed in a recent article in British Medical Journal BMJ, there are an estimated 3 million anabolic steroid users in Europe alone. These users may not necessarily be involved in sports where drug testing takes place. From a medical point of view there is the concern of long term, irreversible adverse effects on health: cardiac, hepatic, psychiatric and reproductive complications.

Although professional dance can be viewed as an art form, rather than a sport, the increased technical requirements together with extended rehearsal and performance schedules place high physical and psychological demands on dancers, similar to elite athletes. In a recent article in the Dance Gazette there is discussion of “performance enhancement in dance being more about survival than competitive edge”.  Unlike sport, in classical dance there is a difference between female dancers who might dope in order to reduce body weight and male dancers looking for means to improve muscle strength.

The show must go on but the aim should be to strive for clean sport and to safeguard the health of athletes.

For further discussion on Endocrine and Metabolic aspects of SEM come to the BASEM annual conference 22/3/18: Health, Hormones and Human Performance


Enhancing sport performance: part 1 British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine

Enabling Sport Performance: part 2



BMJ 2016;353:i5023

Dance Gazette issue 3 2016 p.50-53

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