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    Advantages and Health Risks Associated with Doping in Sports

    Advantages and Health Risks Associated with Doping in Sports

    Advantages and Health Risks Associated with Doping in Sports

    As the increasingly popular Tour of Utah pro cycling event passed through parts of the state this month, we definitely saw impressive physical strength and endurance. We also saw the reigning champ, Tom Danielson, get suspended for failing his doping test.

    This may bring back memories of Lance Armstrong and how he dominated the cycling world, winning what seemed to be every Tour de France. And remind you of the sense of disappointment everyone felt when he confessed to the illegal use of athletic performance-enhancing drugs, or commonly referred to as doping. 

    Doping is an increasing issue with athletes of all ages. Everyone is looking for an opportunity to have an advantage, and some people are willing to do just about anything. Doping refers to many different types of drugs, stimulants and procedures. One of the most common forms is increasing one’s testosterone levels, according to Dr. Chris Gordon, Assistant Director of the Utah Valley Sports Medicine Clinic.

    “Increased testosterone can potentially provide a competitive advantage because it increases one’s red blood cells, which means more oxygen reaches certain parts of the body,” said Dr. Gordon. “Oxygen allows us to fuel and make energy. When there is not enough oxygen in certain states of endurance, then tiredness and fatigue set in.”

    Other potential benefits or advantages that competitors can have from increased testosterone levels are increased muscle mass, improved cognition and an overall better feeling of well-being.

    Recognizing that the term doping triggers many different arguments about ethics and equal opportunity, it’s important to understand that the potential benefits don’t outweigh the many serious health risks associated with the use.

    Dr. Gordon references many different potential health risks including increased risk for heart attack, stroke and blood clots because of thickened blood that slows blood flow. Increased cholesterol levels, hair loss, acne, enlarged prostates and abnormal liver function issues are also associated risks. Increased hormone levels can also lead to aggressive behavior and mood swings, commonly referred to as “’roid rage.”

    It’s human nature to want to succeed and be better. However, Dr. Gordon strongly discourages the use of drugs to do that because they may not only harm the body, but also compromise the spirit of sportsmanship. He emphasizes the importance of working to improve one’s health through proper exercise, training and balanced eating.