Testosterone Again Linked to Heart Risks in Men
On Monday, the World Anti-Doping Association released a report describing a pervasive doping culture among Russia's athletic programs. The agency alleges that doping cover ups are so widespread in Russia that Russian athletes should be banned from competition — possibly even next year's Olympics -- until the country cleans up its act, according to a report in theNew York Times
. Liliya Shobukhova, shown here crossing the finish line to come in second in the women's London marathon April 17, 2011, said she paid the Russian Athletics Federation 450,000 euros to cover up a positive doping test. Part of the new report describes the possibility that Russia uses a laboratory on the outskirts of Moscow to help cover up widespread doping by pre-screening athletes' doping samples and ditching those that test positive. Such widespread, state-sponsored doping hark back to the notorious days when East Germany oversaw a decades-long program to funnel performance-enhancing drugs to their athletes, known officially as State Plan 14.25. Doping among individual athletes, however, has long been reported across many nationalities and sports. Given how prevalent cheating is these days, it can be difficult to sort out the range of substances that athletes abuse to get ahead. And although different sporting disciplines have their own regulations in terms of regulations and controls, the same drugs seem to keep coming back.Does Athletic Doping Even Work?
Erythropoietin (EPO) is a banned substance that didn't get a lot of attention before the scandal over disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. EPO is naturally produced in the body and stimulates the production of red blood cells in bone marrow.
Although it's typically used in patients who are severely anemic, athletes competing in endurance events like cycling can receive injections to boost their performance. The elevated levels of red blood cells deliver more oxygen to the muscles, which allows them to do more work.
EPO is one of the substances Armstrong admitted to using.
Tour de France Doping: Should It Be legal?
Human-growth hormone, among the most popular steroid used by cheating professional athletes, including Armstrong, does exactly what its name would imply: promotes muscle growth. The steroid has the added benefit of strengthening bones and tendons, which is why its often administered to patients coping with range of conditions from children with growth hormone deficieny to adults dealing with muscle atrophy as a result of aging or disease.
Profesional athletes use it to boost their strength and muscle mass. Baseball players, including Jason Giambi (pictured here), who later apologized in a press conference for steroid use, were among the most frequent users of HGH.
Using Tetrahydrogestrinone, also known as "THG" or "the Clear," didn't make Barry Bonds the most hated player in baseball of his time. He managed to do that all by himself.
It did, however, help to fuel a wildly successful baseball career that included 14 All Star appearances, four MVP titles and several home run records. By lying to a grand jury about his use, he also winded up before a judge and almost in jail.
THG was a synthetic steroid designed by Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), the California-based company that provided a number of athletes with a once undetectable performance-enhancing drug.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, or "HCG," was another steroid that proved popular among baseball players, most notably Jose Canseco, who was caught by authorities trying to smuggle the hormone across the border from Mexico.
HCG isn't used by itself, but rather after a steroid cycle. Steroids can shut down the bodies natural testosterone production, and HCG is a drug that helps men produce testosterone and sperm. HCG is also used medically to help women get pregnant.
A steroid popular among bodybuilders (almost guaranteeing athletes will abuse it as well), Winstrol is a steroid much like HCG in that athletes typically don't use it by itself.
Winstrol is another hormone athletes might take when off-cycle from another steroid. The purpose of the drug among athletes and bodybuilders isn't so much to build muscle, but retain it after a "bulking cycle" and cut fat.
Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter who beat Carl Lewis at the 1988 Olympics, might be the most famous user of Winstrol, and had his gold medal stripped as a result of testing positive for the compound. Johnson never denied using, and alleged that other athletes in the competition had all been cheating with performance-enhancing drugs.
How Do Olympians Keep Getting Better?
Although banned today, amphetamines, also known as speed, were once common in sports, ranging from baseball and football to gymnastics and wrestling.
These potentially addictive performance enhancers give a boost with heightened alertness and increased confidence, and can reduce perception of pain. These drugs also comes with a wide range of negative potential side effects from increased blood pressure to hallucinations to heart attack.
Last November, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Ryan Adams was suspended after he tested positive for amphetamines.
Ephedrine is a stimulant used by athletes to give themselves an energy boost.
Not only is ephedrine a banned substance by multiple sporting organizations, but it's also illegal to sell the herb from which it is derived, ephedra. Ephedra is potentially dangerous and has been implicated in the deaths of athletes both amateur and professional.
One of the earliest famous cases of ephedrine use in professional sports was Diego Maradona, who was booted from the 1994 World Cup after he tested positive for it. He later claimed that the compound was present in a sports drink and he had only ingested the drug inadvertently.
For some men, taking testosterone may triple the risk of having a heart attack, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at medical records of more than 48,500 men ages 65 and younger who were taking testosterone (in forms of gels, patches or injections), and followed them for three months.
The results showed that among men with a history of heart disease, 15 men per 1,000 had a heart attack during the three months after they started taking testosterone compared with five men per 1,000 before testosterone was prescribed.
For men who didn't have heart problems in the past, the risk of a heart attack didn't change when they started taking testosterone, according to the study published today (Jan. 29) in the journal PLOS ONE.
The findings add to the evidence of a link between testosterone and heart problems in men, the researchers said. [Macho Man: 10 Wild Facts About His Body]
"Patients and their physicians should discuss the risk of heart attacks when considering testosterone therapy," said study researcher, Sander Greenland, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Testosterone therapy is used in healthy older men to treat some symptoms of the diminished physical function that come with aging, such as loss of muscle mass and lowered bone density.
But middle-age men too have been increasingly taking testosterone therapy, a trend that some attribute to advertising campaigns about "low T syndrome." Over the past decade, prescriptions for testosterone for men ages 40 and older have more than tripled, according to a 2013 study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Concerns about negative effects of testosterone therapy on cardiovascular health were raised by several earlier studies, which mostly included men older than 60. Those studies found that taking testosterone may increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes.
In the new study, the researchers also looked at 7,000 men older than 65 who were taking testosterone therapy. In this older group of men, regardless of their history of heart disease, taking testosterone doubled the risk for heart attacks, confirming the previous findings.
Among the older men, those who didn't refill their prescriptions saw their risk of heart attack decline over the following months, compared with their risk level while taking testosterone, according to the study.