Olympic hero to zero

Hero-to-zero

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After London 2012, it's estimated that half of all the Olympic athletes were tested for drugs in what was billed as the biggest anti-doping operation in the history of the Games. Every competitor who stepped on to the medal-winners’ podium was tested alongside thousands of others.

An anti-doping campaign was fronted by athlete Marlon Devonish and ran throughout the duration of the Games to make a stand against drugs in sport. He said, “Winning an Olympic medal is the best feeling in the world. As an athlete it’s important to know that anyone who stands on the podium has got there through hard work and dedication, not by doping."

Winning an Olympic medal is the best feeling in the world. As an athlete it’s important to know that anyone who stands on the podium has got there through hard work and dedication, not by doping.

Those who risk taking drugs in sport are not only gambling on being caught out by sport chiefs but they will have felt the guilt of letting down their team mates, country, family and friends who have supported them and even made sacrifices for them. These things alone will be hard to deal with, never mind the serious effect that banned drugs can have on their own health and wellbeing.

There’s many stories in gyms and health suites about young people trying out steroids, dietary supplements, and other banned substances to improve their muscle bulk or physical performance but who’s telling them the risks that are involved?

Dr Brian Walker, Head of Sports Medicine at the sportscotland Institute of Sport knows exactly how drugs can negatively impact on your health.

“As a healthy male, I have difficulty in understanding why a steroid user would risk sterility, impotence, shrunken testes, and breast development, never mind the risk of premature death.”

And it’s not just men who use banned drugs, women use them too and across all sports. Women who take drugs can also experience negative side effects, some of which have been much documented by athletes in the past, including US sprinter, Marion Jones. Jones was the first woman to win five medals at a single Olympic Games but was then stripped of them in 2007 after testing positive for doping.

According to UK Anti Doping, there are many synthetic anabolic steroids that mimic the tissue building effect of testosterone, which, can lead to a number of life threatening effects such as heart attacks and strokes at a young age, and damage to important organs in the body such as the liver. In females for instance, anabolic steroids can have a ‘masculinising’ effect resulting in the development of male features such as the widening of the jaw, permanent deepening of the voice, acne, excessive hair growth on the face and body, and male pattern baldness. Other potential side effects may include shrinking of breasts, long-term changes to the menstrual cycle, and the development of ovarian cysts and effects on fertility.

Anyone taking anabolic steroids can also experience psychological effects such as anxiety, confusion, insomnia, aggression, addiction, and in severe cases, depression, mania and delusions.  Some side effects last for several years after the user has stopped taking the drugs.

Taking drugs to improve your physique or physical ability is short-lived and what’s the point in taking them when your health and life is at risk.

To find out more about the risks involved in steroids and other drugs used in sport, take a look at our A-Z on drugs.

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