Effects of Steroids, Doping and Performance-Enhancing Drugs

This section provides answers to common questions about health and safety risks associated with substances and methods on the WADA Prohibited List. It also provides information concerning the legitimate medical use of substances. When these compounds are misused, it constitutes a breach of ethics both by the user and supplier.
Anabolic Agents (Including Testosterone)
The primary medical use of these compounds is to treat delayed puberty, some types of impotence, and wasting of the body caused by HIV infection or other muscle-wasting diseases. What are some potential side effects of anabolic steroid abuse? Some physiological and psychological side effects of anabolic steroid abuse have potential to impact any user, while other side effects are gender specific. The following list is not comprehensive.
  • Acne
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Liver Damage*
  • Premature closure of the growth centers of long bones (in adolescents) which may result in stunted growth*
  • Stunted growth and disruption of puberty in children
  • Increased aggressiveness and sexual appetite, sometimes resulting in abnormal sexual and criminal behavior, often referred to as “Roid Rage”
  • Withdrawal from anabolic steroid use can be associated with depression, and in some cases, suicide.
Gender Specific – Males
  • Breast tissue development*
  • Shrinking of the testicles*
  • Impotence
  • Reduction in sperm production
Gender Specific – Females
  • Deepening of the voice*
  • Cessation of breast development
  • Growth of hair on the face, stomach and upper back*
  • Enlarged clitoris*
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
*Effects may be permanent and can vary by individual.
Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors, and Related Substances
The primary medical use of these compounds vary, but include treatment of cancer or aiding those born prematurely. The presence of an abnormal concentration of a hormone, its metabolites, relevant ratios or markers in your sample is deemed to contain a prohibited substance unless you can demonstrate the concentration was due to a physiological or pathological condition. Examples include human growth hormone (hGH), erythropoietin (EPO), insulin, human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), and adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH). Despite the presence of some growth factors, platelet-derived preparations were removed from the List as current studies on PRP do not demonstrate any potential for performance enhancement beyond a potential therapeutic effect.

Note that individual growth factors are still prohibited when given separately as purified substances as described in S.2.5.

beta-2 agonists
The primary medical use of these compounds is to treat conditions such as asthma and other respiratory ailments. Some studies have shown beta-2 agonists have performance-enhancing effects when consistently high levels are present in the blood.
  • Palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nervousness
The primary medical use of these compounds is to treat conditions such as hypertension, kidney disease and congestive heart failure. Taken without medical supervision, diuretics can result in potassium depletion and possibly even death.
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of coordination and balance
The primary medical use of these compounds is to treat conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD/ADHD), asthma, narcolepsy and obesity.
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Dependence and addiction
  • Dehydration
  • Tremors
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiac arrhythmia


In small doses narcotics have medical uses including relieving severe pain and inducing sleep. However, narcotic overdose is a medical emergency and can lead to respiratory depression and even death.
While a sensation of euphoria and psychological stimulation are effects common to the use of narcotics, misuse of narcotics can pose ethical questions about the handling of the substance and also pose great health risks. Those include:
  • A false sense of invincibility
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased pain threshold and failure to recognize injury
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Physical and psychological dependence; leading to addiction
Cannabinoids (Marijuana)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Distorted sense of time and space
  • Diminished ability to concentrate
  • Slowed coordination and reaction of reflexes
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Mood instability
  • Impaired thinking and reading comprehension
The primary medical use of these compounds is to treat allergies, asthma, inflammatory conditions, and skin disorders among other ailments.
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Weakening of injured areas in muscle, bone, tendon, or ligament
  • Decrease in or cessation of growth in young people
Beta Blockers
The primary medical use of beta-blockers is to control hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, angina pectoris (severe chest pain), migraine, and nervous or anxiety-related conditions.
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Sleep disorders
  • Spasm of the airways
Blood doping
  • Increased stress on the heart
  • Blood clotting
  • Stroke


* With transfusions, there is an increased risk of infectious disease such as AIDS or hepatitis.
Human Growth Hormone (hGH)
  • Severe headaches
  • Loss of vision
  • Acromegaly (Protruding or enlarged jaw, brow, skull, hands and feet)
  • High blood pressure and heart failure
  • Diabetes and tumors
  • Crippling arthritis