26 November 2016

Drugs in Sport


What you need to know

  • Banned substances or practices are banned because of risk
  • Many sports can not be seen to encourage these risks
  • Segregated tested and untested sports make a level playing field more likely


I’ve heard alot of nonsense spoken about image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs) over the years.  Here’s where I stand as a coach in a drug tested powerlifting federation.


Lets get a little clarity first…


  • Doping - to administer drugs in order to enhance or inhibit performance. 
  • Banned substances and practices - banned by a sports governing body usually from the guidelines set out by the World Anti Doping Authority (WADA).
  • IPEDs - usually refers to anabolic steroids, human growth hormone,  stimulants and diuretics.
  • Ergogenic aid - in this context refers to any substance used for the purpose of enhancing performance, not necessarily a drug or banned substance.


Why is a substance banned?

The only reason that certain substances are banned in sports, contrary to common belief that they improve performance, is because using them carries an inherent risk.

To illustrate this here are examples of ergogenic aids and there status within WADA.

Creatine - a proven ergogenic aid but not a drug nor is it banned in sport.  Freely available.

Caffeine - a drug and proven to enhance performance by improving alertness and delaying glycogen depletion.  Used to be banned although levels are still monitored.  Freely available.

Anabolic Steroids - covers many organic compounds including many hormones most of which have a specific physiological action.  These are banned in most sports.  Usually categorised as a Class C drug and illegal to supply.

Masking agents - substances used to hide the presence of IPEDs in tests. Banned for that very reason.



“Why don’t they let them all take what they want”?

Because it creates a competitive environment where to be competitive you’d have to take these substances, and with it comes the risk.  Whilst athletes make large sacrifices in their lives it should be down to choice as opposed to pressure, particularly where banned and in certain circumstances, illicit substances are concerned.  As a coach, I would never expect an athlete to take these risks.

“…but applied properly they’re not that risky”! 

Safe use comes at a price and also requires a sound knowledge base.  If you are not assessing, you’re guessing and to use safely it costs money - the NHS will not run tests unless you have a justifiable medical issue.  So unless you’re willing to go to the doctors with erectile disfunction you’ll have to pay to get your testosterone levels checked!


Public relations not personal records

Athletes are considered role models to the younger generation and rightly so.  The amount of hard work and sacrifice that goes into being the best is admirable.  Do you want athletes to be encouraging the use of IPEDs?  Other drugs, cocaine for example can also found on the WADA banned list that while not performance enhancing could be seen to be on there for exactly this reason.

Arenas do exist where the use of IPEDs are common place. NFL. World’s Strongest Man.  CrossFit.  Whilst these sports may be “tested” to some extent, the testing is often governed by the body who directly benefit from the athletes use of IPEDs which, by its own nature, draws their credibility into question. 

Conversely, within sports such as powerlifting and bodybuilding are tested and untested federations. This affords people a choice and therefore offers a level playing field depending on a person’s own preferences.


Can I understand why people take them?

Yes. When an athlete reaches their genetic ceiling the drive to improve can often only be made with assistance.  Only when other routes have been exhausted or perfected such as diet, sleep and lifestyle to the best of their ability.  The drive to succeed can be overwhelming.

However, there is also a common misconception that steroids will give you the results you want without work.  A stigma is attached to users because of the suggestion that they’re taking a short cut. The reality is the work needs to be done and in a lot of cases IPEDs allow you to do MORE work.  This misconception can be a powerful temptation for some looking for short cuts and can result in a lack of understanding of the physiological processes it takes to progress, these are the people most at risk when using IPEDs and is exactly what organisations like UK Anti-Doping are there to discourage.


Coach Dom Kinsey


For more information on anti-doping procedure and prohibited substance lists visit or


Related Articles