IT’S a spectre which haunts all modern athletes and all competitive sports.
Whether we like it or not, performance enhancing drugs are frighteningly more common than many would dare to admit.
With the news of Kid Galahad’s two-year ban, exercise scientist Danny Snow, examines what it is which drives boxers to put their health on the line.
It was only a couple of weeks ago our generation saw the richest fight of the century, when Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao went head-to-head at the world famous MGM in Las Vegas. With financial rewards many could only dream of, in a sport where pride and egos are worn on sleeves, it is easy to understand why some fighters risk their health and abuse banned substances.
Although there are many Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) used by boxers, there is a core of favoured substances.
Below I examine these, including their enhancing properties and more importantly, the harmful side effects each one brings with it.
It is without doubt the two most commonly abused substances amongst fighters are those that control/reduce weight. More specifically, Clenbuterol (Clen) and Ephedrine. I’m talking about these two together for one reason. They are pretty similar in how they work. Although people have also reported using Ephedrine for things like improved focus and concentration, the main reason for use is weight management. Weight management is, in its simplest form, calories in versus calories out. If we burn more calories than we consume, we lose weight and vice versa. When we use Clen and Ephedrine, we are essentially increasing our core temperature by about 0.5-1.0 degrees, which results in excess energy (calories) being burnt. This leads to a greater calorie deficit, and therefore a decrease in weight. Both of these substances affect the central nervous system, which means the side effects are also fairly similar. Users can expect bouts of uncontrollable shaking, dizziness, insomnia, sweating, increased blood pressure and nausea. Overdosing on them can be fatal, and can be spotted by rapid breathing, irregularities in heart rate and blood pressure, unconsciousness, trembling, extreme panic and restlessness, severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Extremely high doses may even lead to cases of cardiac arrest.
As we rummage a little deeper, we meet a different variety of performance enhancers; anabolic steroids. There are many that could be used by fighters, but the most popular steroid is likely Stanozolol (winstrol, or Winny for short). It’s the second most popular steroid used by sports people behind Dianabol, and is the chemical that was recently found in Kid Galahad’s system. The undefeated professional from Sheffield was recently dealt a two-year ban by the UK Anti-Doping Agency after he failed a drug test [which he plans to appeal]. It has an extremely potent anabolic effect, and because of its low estrogen content, will not make the user retain excess water weight. Basically, when a fighter is on lower calories it may help them maintain their good mass (muscle) and improve attributes such as strength and power, but not store unwanted water. Win-win, right? Not quite. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is, and Stanozolol is no different. Stanozolol is one of the drugs that provides the well-known side effects most people know about, including oily skin, acne, body/face hair and can cause male pattern baldness, as well as resulting in reduced natural testosterone production. Females are no less at risk. They can suffer from deep voices, irregularities with their menstrual cycle, excess hair and clitoral enlargement. Stanozolol has also been altered so that it can survive passing through the liver, therefore allowing more of the drug to enter the blood stream. Unfortunately, this means it is extremely toxic to the liver, and prolonged use can result in liver damage. No thanks…
My experience has taught me one thing; if somebody choses to use PEDs, they will, regardless of how many times you bring to light the potentially life-threatening side effects.
Danny Snow is an exercise scientist and boxing coach. He works as a consultant to athletes guiding training and nutrition to maximize performance. You can contact his with any queries at Danny@dshealthandfitness.com, or join his Facebook page where he regularly shares information: www.facebook.com/dssportsscientist.