BEIRUT: Doping, defined as the use of banned substances in competitive sport to enhance performance, is on the rise worldwide. "Data on steroids abuse is under-reported in Lebanon," a prominent endocrinologist told An-Nahar. Nonetheless, the incidence of doping on anabolic steroids is increasing in many regions, especially the Middle East.
In a meta-analysis of 187 studies, the Middle East topped the list with a prevalence of 22 percent; the overall global lifetime prevalence rate was 3.3 percent but was higher in men 6.4 percent than women 1.6 percent. Moreover, steroids abuse is not restricted to competitive athletes. On the contrary, the rate of doping is higher among non-professional athletes than professional athletes (18.4 percent vs. 13.3 present respectively).
"Not just professional athletes, most abusers are ordinary people," the endocrinologist affirms. prevalence among college students is as high as 20 percent with high school students placing second. "[Steroid abuse] is becoming a new reason for consultation in endocrinology," the endocrinologist adds. "Even small doses can be harmful."
The severe side effects of doping pose a global health concern. Side effects in males include: enlarged breasts, shrunken testicles, low sperm count, erectile dysfunction and can even lead up to prostate cancer and infertility. As for females, the list includes: facial hair, decreased breast size, baldness and deepened voice.
The consequences of abuse can be fatal. Abuse of certain steroids can lead to enlargement of the heart increasing the risk of stroke and heart attack. Why are performance-enhancing substances used? Doping is done to gain a competitive edge mainly. However, users of anabolic steroids report using it to improve self-esteem, lose weight, and enhance their outer appearance.
Different substances and methods of doping include male sex hormone (ex: testosterone), growth hormones, stimulants, methods to increase oxygen transport, nutritional supplements, drugs to decrease heart rate and other substances that prolong endurance. The pressure athletes face to improve their performance at a rapid rate pushes many of them to resort to illegal and harmful substances.
As doping is not restricted to athletes and competitive performers, many people, being mostly adolescents, risk their lives putting their health on the line. Public awareness is needed to educate on this topic. The target audience should include children and adolescents, athletes and non-athletes, males and females.
Mahmoud Mahdi is a medical student at LAU Medical School.
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.