Erogogenic Aids used to enhance performance

An ergogenic aid is any device, substance or methods which can enhance performance. (legally or illegally)

Legal techniques for increasing performance

Altitude training

Involves training at high altitudes which increases the amount of red blood cells for a short amount of time. It also increases the number of capillaries within the working muscles.

Hypoxic tents

Similar to altitude training but are a simulated version and work to increase the number of red blood cells by exposing the individual to low oxygen atmospheres.

Illegal techniques for increasing performance

Blood doping

Refers to the transfusion of blood to increase the number of red blood cells and therefore the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

Blood doping can either be

  • Autologeous transfusion : Where the athlete takes out their own blood to re-inject it at a later stage prior to the event to boost red blood cell count for the event.
  • Homologous transfusion: Red blood cells from a compatible donor are harvested, concentrated and transfused into the athlete prior to the event.

Possible benefits of blood doping

  • Increased number of red blood cells.
  • Increased number of capillaries.
  • Increased oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

Potential harms of blood doping

  • Risk of infection and the potential toxicity of improperly stored blood.
  • Risk of the transmission of infectious diseases through contaminated blood.
  • Increased viscosity and thickness of the blood which can cause it to clot more easily, increasing the chance of heart attack or stroke.

Gene doping

Involves inserting DNA into an athlete’s cells that may code for specific characteristics that would aid performance. Although there is no confirmed cases of this, it is still banned by the world anti doping authority to ensure that this type of performance enhancement does not occur.
This may provide athletes the ability to engineer their body’s in the way they want to increase recovery.

Possible benefits

  • Manipulate the body to be suitable for any sport.
  • Increased ability to treat sports injuries and enhance recovery.

Potential Harms of gene doping

  • The creation of autoimmunity issues within the athlete- as the body may accidentally identify the new genes as foreign and attack them.
  • It may produce flu like symptoms
  • Has the potential to create new viruses
  • Has many undiscovered potential harms as it may alter DNA negatively that could lead to health complications possibly causing death.

Anabolic steroids

Are synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone. The hormone stimulates protein synthesis by the muscles which not only allows for muscles to put on more mass but most importantly decreases the recovery times needed between sessions.

Possible advantages

  • Increases in lean muscle mass
  • Increases in muscle strength/power
  • Accelerate healing of micro trauma in the muscle from training

Possible risks

  • Changes in cardiac tissue resulting in a higher chance of stroke and heart attack.
  • Liver damage due to alterations in specific enzymes
  • Can also have psychological effects such as increased aggression.
  • For males it can also cause infertility,testicular atrophy(shrinkage) and development of excess breast tissue. These effects however are reversible.
  • For females the effects are greater as they are not reversible, it can cause menstrual irregularities, genitalia hypertrophy(enlargement) and reduction of breast tissue.

Erythroprotein (EPO)

Is a natural hormone produced in the body that regulates red blood cell production within the bone marrow. An increase in EPO means an increase in the amount of red blood cells. Synthetic versions of the hormone have been created and can be injected to increase performance.

Possible advantages

  • Increased number of red blood cells
  • Increased oxygen carrying capacity

Possible harms

  • Increased blood thickness(viscosity) which can cause the blood to coagulate or clot more quickly increasing the risk of stroke.
  • Can cause liver and pancreatic damage
  • Flu like symptoms

Human growth Hormone

Human growth hormone stimulate cell growth, reproduction and regeneration.The hormone can be synthetically produced and injected.

Possible benefits include

  • Reduction in body fat
  • Increase in lean muscle tissue
  • Increase in muscle strength
  • Build up of the connective tissue within muscles

Potential harms

  • Cardiac disease
  • liver/thyroid disease
  • Excessive water retention
  • If excessive amounts are produced as in the case where tumours are present in the brain it can lead to acromegaly.

Diuretics

Diuretics are often taken as a masking agent to hide the use of other prohibited substances. Diuretics work to increase the amount of urine and flushing of the renal system removing evidence if the use of EPO and human growth hormone. Diuretics can also be used to reduce weight and is often used by jockey’s and boxers.

Potential benefits

  • loss of weight
  • Flushes out evidence of other drugs
  • Prevents altitude sickness

Potential harms

  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Heart issues

Stimulants

Are usually prohibited during the season. Stimulants work to activate the nervous system increasing cardiovascular activities, reduce experience of fatigue as well. Examples include caffeine which is legal but also substances like cocaine.

Possible benefits

  • Activates nervous system
  • Increases cardiovascular activity
  • Reduces experience of fatigue
  • Increases stamina
  • Increases alertness

Possible harms

  • Increases anxiety
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Increases risk of heart attack

Beta blockers

Beta-blockers work to decrease heart rate and to steady the body. They are often used by athlete to reduce arousal. They are also used to treat high blood pressure. They can be use effectively be athletes such as shooter or those participating in archery to help steady their aim.

Possible benefits include

  • Reduced heart rate
  • Reduced adrenaline production

Possible risks include

  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Interference with sleep patterns
  • Nausea and vomiting