Drug Abuse

Drug Use In Bodybuilding

Drugs in sport has been a controversial topic for many years, but the most notable pioneer of drugs in sport was John Ziegler who was a physician for the United States weightlifting team. In 1959, Ziegler created the anabolic steroid commonly known as Dianabol, it is currently sold in both oral and injectable forms, and has become a popular choice amongst bodybuilders or those looking for that "perfect" body. Bodybuilding perhaps more so than other athletic pursuits, is a socio-cultural environment which normalises the instrumental use (as opposed to "abuse") of steroids and steroid accessory drugs (Monaghan, 2001). While the wider uneducated population cast judgement down on those who use performance enhancing drugs as "cheats", these people are often small minded and fail to see both sides of the story, so the aim of this article is not to cast my opinion but to reveal both sides of the argument.

Evidence to support use:

Savulescu, Foddy & Clayton (2004) supported the open use of performance enhancing drugs, explaining that the welfare of the athlete must be our primary concern. If a drug does not expose an athlete to excessive risk, we should allow it even if it enhances performance. We have two choices: to vainly try to turn the clock back, or to rethink who we are and what sport is, and to make a new 21st century Olympics. Not a super-Olympics but a more human Olympics. Our crusade against drugs in sport has failed. Rather than fearing drugs in sport, we should embrace them. If we were to embrace use in sport, it would be monitored by medical professionals rather than athletes injecting themselves at home and therefore creating a safer outcome for the athlete.

Evidence to support disuse:

Possibly one of the most controversial components of performance enhancing drugs is it's safety, and one such case was a 23 year-old bodybuilder who had taken an unknown amount of anabolic steroids combined with many other performance enhancing drugs over a period of about 9 months. After visiting a dancing club he went to bed at about 4am and around 6 hours later he was found unconscious and the resuscitation was unsuccessful. A number of well known bodybuilding drugs were found in his apartment such as Testex Leo, Proviron, Thybon, Clomifen and Aldactone, it was therefore suggested that these drugs were the reason behind his death (Hausmann, Hammer & Betz, 1998).

So, is performance enhancing drugs "cheating"?

Think about this, could you really call it cheating if everybody else had access to performance enhancing drugs. There is this notion of "fair play" and "the spirit of sport" … but as any competitor would know, gaining an edge by even as little as 1% is a risk many are willing to take. Why is it though that we focus so heavily on performance enhancing drugs when there is such thing as match fixing going on.


So in conclusion, performance enhancing drugs is a confronting topic but one which needs to be resolved, we need to create a safe environment for the athlete but also remember that all athletes want to be their very best, meaning most will turn to performance enhancing drugs . More and more undetectable drugs are being produced, so how long before every athlete is taking performance enhancing drugs without being caught. Hopefully this has proven useful, and you can now make your own educated opinion of drug use in sport and in particular bodybuilding.


Monaghan, Lee. "Challenging Medicine? Bodybuilding, Drugs and Risk." Sociology of Health & Illness 21, no. 6 (1999): 707-734. doi: 10.1111 / 1467-9566.00180.

Hausmann, R., S. Hammer, and P. Betz. "Performance Enhancing Drugs (doping Agents) and Sudden Death – a Case Report and Review of the Literature." International Journal of Legal Medicine 111, no. 5 (July 1, 1998): 261-264. doi: 10.1007 / s004140050165.

Savulescu, J., B. Foddy, and M. Clayton. "Why We Should Allow Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport." British Journal of Sports Medicine 38, no. 6 (December 1, 2004): 666-670. doi: 10.1136 / bjsm.2003.005249.

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