Olympics and doping
With the Olympics underway, the controversy surrounding doping is on the forefront of the Doctify team’s mind. Aside from the legality around doping, have you ever wondered what doping means? How does it make an athlete improve their performance making them almost superhuman? The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), is the organisation responsible for putting together the anti-doping policies.
Most dopants such as testosterone, hormones or blood transfusions work by enhancing normal bodily effects such as cell growth or ones capacity for carrying oxygen. Here is a quick rundown on some of the common dopants and how they work.
Never heard of androgens? You might have heard of its most famous form, testosterone. Testosterone is a steroid hormone produced by the body that encourages the muscle cells to increase in size, promoting protein synthesis and muscle growth. Natural or synthetic androgens can be taken and are normally detected through urine samples and mass spectrometry – the breaking up of a chemical and identifying characteristic pieces. Known synthetic (man-made) androgens are more easily spotted since they are not produced by the body. There has been the development of designer androgens, made to look different but still act in the same way, and since these have new structures the analysis will not pick up the right signature. But as soon as these new structures are discovered they are added to the prohibited drugs database.
Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles and used for aerobic respiration. Through doping the number of red blood cells can be increased and following that the athlete’s capacity, how much oxygen they can carry in their blood, and endurance, how long their muscles can work for, increases. Drugs can be taken to stimulate the body to naturally increase the amount of red blood cells and these might be detected through the normal drugs testing route. Another way to increase red blood cells is to physically transfuse the body with them. The transfused blood can be either from the athletes own body, extracted some time ago and stored, or from someone else’s.
The word peptide comes from the bonds between amino acids. Confusingly, short chain amino acids are called peptides, and as the chain lengthens, it can fold up in itself and form a complicated 3D-structure called proteins. Some hormones are made of peptides. Peptides occur naturally in the body, and certain ones can encourage the body to release growth hormones. If applied using a cream or injected, the athlete will be able to recover from training quicker and also build bulk and strength by stimulating their muscle growth. These substances rapidly metabolises, which means the body breaks them down very quickly, making it hard to detect. However, regular and surprise testing will mean that any users will probably be caught out!
A stimulant is a generic name for any drug that induces temporary improvements in your physical or mental capacity. There are whole hosts of banned stimulants and they are normally taken to increase alertness and wakefulness and increase the oxygen absorbed by acting as a decongestant or increasing the capacity in the air sacs in the lungs.
These are compounds that increase the amount of urine that you pass. These can have two advantages; it means prohibited drugs can quickly leave the system and avoid detection and in some sports the loss of weight from decreasing water retention will increase their speed or help them make their weight class.
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The Telegraph: Rio 2016 Olympics: Anti-doping branded ‘worst’ in Games history