Allegations of doping continue to plague professional and Olympic sports. Dr. David Geier, the Director of MUSC's Sports Medicine program, talks about the difficulty in testing athletes for use of banned performance-enhancing substances.
Read the full transcript »

How prevalent is doping in professional and Olympic sports? Dr. David Geier Director, MUSC Sports Medicine It’s really hard to know because obviously athletes are not perfectly honest and so you don’t know the ones that got away with it and didn’t get caught. It’s hard to say and again it varies by sport but it could be as low as 1 to 2% or maybe as high as 20%. I’ve seen anonymous surveys that suggest that if they could get away with it as many as 50% of athletes would do. So I doubt it’s that high, I would probably say and believe me it’s just a guess and an average across sports this probably around 5 to 10% of athletes but again that’s not based on scientific data. What are steroids? Steroids are substances that the body makes naturally that help with hormone regulation and muscle building and things like that but what we’re talking about in a legal substance standpoint it is our substances that are made in the lab chemically engineered to boost muscle strength, boost testosterone production you know energy metabolism things like that to create superficial or superhuman amounts of that substance in the body to perform better. Are there any benefits to steroids? What are the risks? Yeah I think with all the benefits there’s probably more of a risk standpoint to steroids. The benefits are at least in the short term muscle strength gains, muscle size gains and then so doing strength and velocity and all the various parameters that go along with that increases in performance. The downsides are numerous, probably too many to talk about I mean anywhere from you know from heart side effects and heart damage, liver damage. You’re talking about skin issues in terms of acne. You’re talking about hormonal issues and creating higher levels of estrogen in the body and decrease sperm production in males and you know psychologic effects in terms of intensity and rage so really a lot of potentially very harmful and sometimes irreversible side effects. What are some other substances athletes might use to enhance their performance? It’s very difficult to know because daily, almost the Olympic, the International Olympic Committee and the varying national federations change what they say is allowed and not allowed and some of that occurs as we learn more and more about side effects or some of these compounds but even substances such as caffeine are regulated and some of the psuedopheds and things like that. So very little at an Olympic and professional standpoint is allowed and you have to check with your teams trainers and some of the rule books. Having said that things like vitamins typically are allowed and some of the different supplements, protein shakes and things like that are okay. Once it gets passed that in the professional sports and the Olympic sports, very little is allowed. Now high school, college have been way behind that in terms of what’s allowed so you do see things creating some of these other substances still allow that aren’t allowed at the professional. Well maybe not the professional but at the Olympic level so again and it changes daily so you have to really check with your sport, that’s sports governing body and your individual team and see you know what is allowed at that level. Why is it so difficult to test for illegal substances? Things like say human growth hormone that it’s the substances made for in your body anyway is very difficult to tell is that being added through an injection essentially or did that person’s make it. The same thing goes with steroids and sex hormones or you know like injections like testosterone and all the precursors to all these. It’s very difficult sometimes to tell you know is that just you know that person happens to make a lot of testerone or is it getting injected. And there’s been a lot of large advance made in the detection of these substances. The other problem of that is we don’t know all the drugs out there so we don’t know to test for t

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement