Cheat to be the best

LANCE ARMSTRONG, Marion Jones, and Ben Johnson all have one thing in common: they all had impressive careers in their sporting fields for many years – and they all had spectacular falls from grace.

They were finally caught using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), which resulted in embarrassment, lawsuits and international vilification.

More recently, most of the Russian Olympic contingent was embroiled in a state-sponsored doping scandal, and was banned from competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Competitive athletes who use PEDs should definitely be punished to the full extend of the law, but in this 21st century, these drugs are also easily available to the weekend warrior and the average Joe.

Many faces of PEDs

There are many different types of PEDs available in the market today, and some can even be bought over the counter.

Anabolic steroids are the most commonly-known PEDs, as they have been around the longest.

They are primarily used to treat delayed puberty, some types of impotence, and other muscle-wasting diseases as they can boost testosterone levels.

Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of testosterone – a hormone found in men, and, in much smaller amounts, in women.

Steroids help the body’s muscle cells produce more protein, which leads to increased muscle size and strength, as long as the athlete works out.

It also allows the body to produce more ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the ‘fuel’ muscles need to move.

Any unnatural products – such as steroids – that elevate the body’s testosterone levels are considered illegal in sport, as these steroids, if abused by an athlete, can give them an unfair advantage.

Popular in the bodybuilding and powerlifting scene, anabolic steroids are usually injected into the body, to create muscle mass and speed up recovery.

It can also be used to increase endurance, and help keep the body running like a well-oiled machine.

Other commonly-used PEDs include stimulants (to increase alertness and decrease appetite), human growth hormone (taken for improved endurance and strength), and diuretics (for rapid weight loss and to mask the use of PEDs in urine tests).

Serious side effects

PEDs are banned from use in sport also because of their physiological and psychological side effects.

According to the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada), PEDs do not just affect athletic prowess but also carry dire consequences to the human body.

This world-renowned anti-doping agency states that PEDs can be extremely dangerous, and in some cases, lethal.

According to USADA, PEDs can cause liver damage, and increase aggressiveness (commonly referred to as ‘roid rage’, which is an uncontrollable, Hulk-esque fury), and sexual appetite.

PEDs withdrawal symptoms include depression, and in some extreme cases, suicide.

PEDs can also cause undesirable gender effects. Women who take PEDs, such as anabolic steroids, may develop excess body hair and an unusually deep voice.

The most famous example of this was during the systematic doping of East German athletes during the 1970s.

Female athletes began noticing that their voices were changing, they were missing their periods, and even growing moustaches.

Men, on the other hand, develop shrunken testicles, gynecomastia (better known as ‘man-boobs’), and baldness, among others.

When cheating is ok

According to research, most healthy men begin to experience a gradual decline in testosterone after the age of 30, which results in a decrease in sex drive.

Low testosterone also means persistent fatigue, weight gain (especially around the midsection), depression, and muscle loss.

Most men brush this off as a natural part of ageing, but there are also those who want to remain in peak physical condition even in their late 50s.

If you are not a competitive athelete, seeking treatment through PEDs is not a crime, especially if you want to have more energy to work out, and an increase in your libido.

It is, however, extremely risky to dabble with PEDs, such as testosterone boosters, without consulting a certified medical expert.

A doctor – through a simple blood test – will be able to tell if a person needs testosterone boosters to stay active, or if the person should simply make a lifestyle change by eating healthier, sleeping longer, and exercising more frequently.

Nevash Nair is currently on his own fitness journey in Thailand. Follow him on Instagram ­@nevjitsu or contact him via email at lifestyle.nevashnair@­thesundaily.com.