Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is an anabolic hormone important for muscle growth and which is naturally produced by the body. It can also be synthetically engineered and it is this version that athletes use. HGH facilitates the transport of amino acids across cell membranes leading to increased protein synthesis. Weight lifters taking HGH have been found to have decreased body fat and increased fat free mass. HGH also stimulates bone and cartilage growth, improves fatty acid oxidation and inhibits glucose and amino acid breakdown. However, one study demonstrated that after HGH intake combined with a resistance training program did not show any difference in dynamic and static strength measures. It seems that the effects of HGH depend on the person's natural HGH output and body composition.

Their are serious potential complications from taking HGH. Many of the effects from long-term administration of this drug are irreversible. Some men who have taken HGH have encountered joint pains, may suffer from water retention and even diabetes. Another serious disorder that can arise is acromegaly where many internal organs are affected due to the over production of HGH. The skeleton, soft tissue, heart can be damaged and exercise capacity is diminished. Furthermore, those suffering from acromegaly have a shorter life span.

HGH is banned and is illegal and its use whilst not guaranteeing improved performance, can lead to serious health problems. This drug has to be injected and those sharing needles are at risk of other diseases - another reason not to utilise HGH.


Anabolic steroids (AS) have been widely used in power sports such as weightlifting for many years. AS work in a similar manner to the hormone "testosterone". They produce androgenic (masculinising) and tissue-building (anabolic) effects. Athletes combine multiple steroid "cocktails" to be injected or taken orally. Popular steroids used by athletes include Nandrolone and Stanazol.

From a scientific point of view, variable results have been achieved concerning the effectiveness of AS usage. It seems dosage is an important factor as is diet. Training whilst taking AS and an athlete's current training status (if the athlete is trained up or not) will also lead to varying levels of improvement. AS have been shown to increase lean body mass and muscle size and strength. Well trained athletes may have a greater gain in strength when using AS compared to well trained athletes who take no steroids. Also, AS may improve aerobic capacity through increasing red cell mass (this is refuted by many scientists) and also improve reflex time. Some athletes feel better psychologically from taking AS (well-being, increased energy and aggressiveness).

Like most illegal substances used for enhancing sports performance, AS may lead to serious health complications. For example, liver tumours and jaundice may occur, there is increased risk of AIDS (from sharing needles), ruptures of the Achilles tendon and many cardiovascular problems such as strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure and athersclerosis. There are also major effects on the reproductive system (reduction of sperm production, decreased libido...) as well as psychological problems such as aggressive or even violent behaviour. Finally, cosmetic effects may occur - acne, facial and body hair growth and deepening of the voice in females

All AS are banned substances and should only be used for medical purposes. Like Human Growth Hormone, results are not guaranteed and the health and legal risks easily outweigh any advantages gained from using these drugs.


Androstenedione is (ASD) a nutritional supplement that can be bought in various outlets. ASD is found naturally in meat and some plants. It is produced by the adrenal glands and aids the liver to synthesise other biologically active steroids. ASD is eventually converted to testosterone. Little scientific research has been carried out on the effectiveness of this drug. Although studies have shown that it does not enhance athletic performance, some athletes believe it allows them to train harder, become stronger and repair injuries quicker. Regarding side effects, currently, little is known about the long term effects of ASD although concerns remain about links with heart disease and different cancers... It is banned by some sporting bodies due to providing an unfair advantage and endangering health, similar to anabolic steroids.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a metabolic precursor to Androstenedione which as mentioned above, is converted to testosterone. It is naturally produced in the adrenal cortex from cholesterol and closely resembles the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. Like Androstenedione, it occurs naturally and may be purchased over the counter. As well as athletes, many people use DHEA as they believe it can preserve youth, improve health and mental performance. In a sporting context, there is little scientific evidence analysing the effects of DHEA on sports performance. However, it may reduce body fat and increase muscle mass. There is also a need for more research into the long term health effects of DHEA. Experts think there may be a link with heart disease, breast cancer, prostrate gland problems and disturbances in menstrual function. Like Androstenedione, DHEA is banned by certain sporting bodies as it is classed under the category of anabolic steroids.

Finally, due to improvements in methods and the introduction of random testing, various substitutes to anabolic steroids have appeared. Clenbuterol is one if these substitute steroids often used by body builders. It is may be prescribed by doctors for treating obstructive pulmonary disorders such as bronchial asthma. Positive and negative results from using Clenbuterol on exercise performance have been shown. For example, increased muscle mass and maximal force generating capacity. On the other hand, resistance to muscle fatigue may be decreased. Detection of Clenbuterol abuse may result in athletes being banned. Side effects shown in humans who have "overdosed" by eating animals previously treated with Clenbuterol resulted in muscle cramps, headaches, palpitations, rapid heart rate...

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