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Physical Education

Drugs in sport


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Drugs aren’t limited to those with addictions. Some athletes take illegal substances to enhance their performance, an activity known as ‘doping’. There are five types of doping classes (banned drugs), the most common being stimulants and hormones. Although they’re performance-enhancing, they have numerous health risks and are banned by sports’ governing bodies. So what’s the difference between these and social drugs?


Sport official and squad member

Most professional sportspeople are regularly drug tested. Photo courtesy of BBC Sport

Some sportspeople try to gain an advantage by using performance-enhancing drugs. This is known as doping. Many performance-enhancing drugs are banned by sports' governing bodies. There are 5 'doping classes', which are categories of banned drugs:


Doping classEffect on performanceDangerous side-effects
StimulantsMake athletes more alert and mask fatigue [Fatigue: Extreme tiredness caused by physical activity. ]Can cause heart failure, addictive
Anabolic agents - steroidsHelp athletes to train harder and build muscle Increased aggression and kidney damage
DiureticsRemove fluid from the body. Used :
  • to make the weight, eg in boxing
  • to hide other drug use
Causes severe dehydration
Narcotic analgesicsMask pain caused by injury or fatigue which can make the injury worseAddictive
Peptides and hormones

EPO (Erythropoietin) red blood cells - gives more energy

HGH (Human Growth Hormone) - build muscle

EPO - risk of stroke or heart problems.

HGH - abnormal growth, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis etc

A doctor performing an injection

Blood doping is injecting blood that has been removed from the body a few days earlier, enabling the blood to carry more oxygen. It is banned as it's a form of cheating. It can cause kidney and heart failure.

Beta blockers are banned in archery and shooting as they keep the heart rate low and reduce tremble in the hands.


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