Performance-Enhancing Drugs / by kevin murray

When it comes to sports, Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) have been and will continue to be front page news for the foreseeable future.  The reason that this is so is because it would appear that in any major sport PEDs are used.  There are two obvious reasons: PEDs work and big-time sports is a huge business in America, with athletes commanding salaries that are stunning.   The lure of that money and the prestige that comes with being a valued player is a supersized incentive for these competitors to do whatever it takes to get there.


But first, how can we be certain that PEDs work?  Fortunately, there was a study published in 1996 in the New England Journal of Medicine which utilized 50 men, broken down into the categories of:  placebo-no exercise, testosterone--no-exercise, placebo-plus-exercise, and testosterone-plus-exercise groups.  40 men completed this 10-week study and the results were astonishing.


The testing was done over a period of 10 weeks in which the testosterone dosage was 600mg per week for those not receiving the placebo.  After 10 weeks the fat-free mass was measured.  For the group taking the placebo with no exercise, there was no change noted.  "The men treated with testosterone but no exercise had an increase of 3.2 kg in fat-free mass, and those in the placebo-plus-exercise group had an increase of 1.9 kg. The increase in the testosterone-plus-exercise group was substantially greater (averaging 6.1 kg)."


So the results looked like this:

Placebo-no exercise:                      0 increase in fat-free mass

Testosterone-no-exercise:          3.2kg increase in fat-free mass

Placebo- exercise:                           1.9kg increase in fat-free mass

Testosterone--exercise:                               6.1kg increase in fat-free mass


They stated: "Our results show that supraphysiologic doses of testosterone, especially when combined with strength training, increase fat-free mass, muscle size, and strength in normal men."  It sure did, but note also that just by taking testosterone and not even bothering to exercise, you would have built more fat-free mass than a man legitimately working out to increase his fat-free mass but taking no PEDs.  In other words, by not using PEDs, you are at a substantial disadvantage when it comes to increasing your fat-free mass.


And therein lies the problem for athletes that workout diligently and do not take any illegal substances to increase fat-free body mass, you are at a significant disadvantage to those that do take those substances.  It's an unfair advantage, an illegal advantage, but it is an advantage which can take away your potential scholarship, and your well-paid athletic career.  Although there are penalties for those that are caught using PEDs the testing doesn't come close to catching all of the athletes that are "gaming" the system.  The reason that this is so is because the testing devices are always behind the game, and are unable or have not been effective in catching these hard-to-trace designer drugs.  

It could also be the case in which the professional sports organizations like to sell the illusion that they are doing everything possible to stop/slow down/or eliminate illegal PED use, but in actuality, they don't want to catch everyone, because if they did, it might really shake their sport down to its very foundations and lose them sponsorship, viewership, and marketing monies.


For what they are, PEDs work, and they are that siren song that calls to so many who cannot resist its enticing lures.