“Doping” refers to when athletes take banned substances to enhance their performance. It is a major problem in sport and athletics internationally and has been done by athletes since organized sport became a popular pastime. Even in Ancient Greece and Rome, Olympians and Gladiators consumed dangerous substances to enhance their performance.
The issue with doping is not only one of fairness, but also of safety. There are numerous health risks and complications involved with the substances typically used to enhance performance. Sports organizations and governing bodies have all taken a stance against the prevalence of doping in sport, but it remains difficult to fully eradicate the issue. Here’s what professionals interested in a nutrition and health career should know about doping.
Anti-Doping Legislation Internationally and in Canada
Despite its lengthy history, legislation around performance enhancing substances didn’t start being written until the 1920s. In 1928, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) became the first international sports organization to ban the use of these substances. Testing didn’t become widely implemented until much later. The first test for performance-enhancing drugs at the Olympics wasn’t until 1968, at the Winter Games.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established before the break of the millennium in 1999. It is an organization that is responsible for setting international standards for doping prevention, and many nations have their legislation comply with WADA’s.
In Canada, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport implements the Canadian Anti-Doping Program. This organization’s program is adopted by sports organizations throughout the country. In addition to the code, the organization also:
- Delivers anti-doping education
- Tests for banned substances
- Collects samples of substances
- Investigates allegations of doping
Doping Substances and Their Health Risks
One of the issues with regulating and testing for performance enhancement substances is that there is an inconceivable amount of them. There are hundreds of known doping substances, and designer or experimental substances are constantly being invented. New drugs are researched and sold to bypass tests and investigations.
Students in nutrition and health training should know that there are two main categories of drugs that are used to enhance performance in professional athletes:
- Anabolic agents, including testosterone as well substances such as androstendiol, bondenose, closterbol, and danzol
- Stimulants, such as amphetamines, ephedrine, and cocaine
Anabolic agents are used because they enable athletes to train harder, build more muscle, and recover more easily from exertion. They are not addictive but can lead to a number of health complications such as kidney damage, increased aggression, baldness, low sperm count, increased facial hair, and deeper voices.
Stimulants are used because they can help athletes be more alert and resistant to pain and fatigue. These drugs do tend to be addictive and habit-forming, carry severe health risks, and are typically illegal.
Beyond these typical substances, there are several others used by professional athletes to either enhance performance or mask the presence of performance-enhancing drugs. These include:
- Beta-2 Agonists
- Masking substances
- Anti-estrogenic substances
How Professionals With Nutrition and Health Training Can Warn Clients About Doping
Professionals who have graduated from a nutrition diploma program know that performance enhancing substances aren’t needed to be a fit, athletic person. They can advise their clients and the people in their lives that there are healthy, natural alternatives to taking doping substances.
Treating the body with care and giving it the energy and rest it needs to survive is all the preparation that’s necessary before engaging in athletic activities. The four most important things to provide for the body to prepare it for sports are:
- Nutrition, frequent balanced meals with proteins and micronutrient-rich foods
- Hydration, drinking water regularly throughout the day
- Sleep, getting a sufficient night’s rest at the end of every day
- Resilience, repairing the body by managing stress and anxiety
By following this regimen, people will be ready to engage in sports and other athletic activities in a healthy, energized fashion.
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