Drugs…. What’s the crack?

Performance enhancing drugs are a hot topic in the professional and amateur sporting world with new doping scandals hitting the headlines every couple of months. There’s no doubt that these drugs have some positive effect on performance, Lance Armstrong cheated his way to seven Tour de France wins with an incredibly sophisticated doping operation that incorporated EPO, blood doping, testosterone, human growth hormone and corticosteroids without the medical requirement for them.

It isn’t just the pros that are at it though, drugs are now becoming increasingly prevalent amongst gym and fitness enthusiasts. Whilst it’s no secret that many powerlifters and bodybuilders take their extra vitamins growing numbers of young men are turning to the substances in order to heighten their gym progress and enhance their physiques.

For a fairly small but pretty shredded girl I can shift disproportionately large amounts of weight and have been accused of taking pretty much everything going with Anavar (Oxandrolone) being the most common assumption. My favourite conversation being “I just assumed you were on it because you look like a Russian powerlifter and just rack pulled 165kg.”

There are several steroids that are currently rife in gyms across the country with many men using them unaware of the illegality and dangers of doing so. Testosterone and its derivatives are, without a doubt, the most common and widely used illegal substances.

Testosterone is a naturally occurring substance in the body and is responsible for the maturation of male secondary sexual characteristics. As synthetic anabolic steroids, they are used to increase muscle size and strength and are consequently favoured by powerlifters. Some synthetic, testosterone derived, anabolic steroids are used in moderate quantities for medical uses however abuse can have seriously detrimental side effects.

Whilst side effects include testicular atrophy, sperm count reduction, acne and male pattern baldness, losing your masculinity and good looks isn’t your only concern! Lowered HDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke as fatty deposits are more likely to build up in the arteries, leading to blockages. If a blockage cuts off blood supply to one of the arteries supplying the heart a heart attack will occur as oxygen is unable to reach the muscle tissue that keeps the heart pumping.

Steroid use has also been associated with increased blood pressure, one of the biggest causes of stroke as the increased pressure causes blood vessels to weaken and rupture. A rupture within the brain is known as a haemorrhagic stroke.

Need more reasons not to touch steroids with a 10 foot pole? They also affect the hepatic system and increase the likelihood of liver tumour and disease. The liver is responsible for many of the vital processes within the body such as energy production, waste management, hormone regulation and the storage of some vital nutrients such as iron.

So anabolic steroids might not be the best choice if you’re looking to enhance your gains as they affect everyone differently. The magnitude of the benefits and adverse side effects varies on an individual basis and even if short term effects don’t appear too severe the long term side effects could be devastating. If you’re looking to increase muscle mass and strength then food and heavy weights are arguably the best solution. Lift heavy, eat enough to build muscle and stay away from the steroids.


- Charlotte Fisher
Nutritional Science Student