Supplements & Ergogenic Aids
Erogenic aids consist of supplements, drugs or procedures believed to improve athletic performance. Some of these substances are completely legal while others remain banned and unethical. Many are completely untested yet still receive endorsements from professional sports stars.
Those supplements that do have some limited research to back up the claims seem to receive even greater media hype. This section examines some of the more popular substances that many enthusiastic athletes consider a necessary training and performance aid.
Often referred to as "pep pills", amphetamines exert a powerful stimulating effect on the central nervous system. Two of the most commonly used substances at the time of writing are Benzedrine and Dexedrine. They increase blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, cardiac output and blood glucose. They are said to increase alertness and a feeling of energy, decrease the sensation of fatigue and enhance self-confidence. Amphetamines create similar stimulatory sensations to that of cocaine but the effects last considerably longer. Some of the short-term side effects include headaches, insomnia, hallucinations, convulsions and even heart attack. Longer-term use can lead to uncontrollable movements of the face, paranoid delusions and nerve damage.
Amphetamines are a banned substance and if athletes are made aware of the well-documented side effects it's unlikely they would consider using them. However, sport is not immune to amphetamine abuse. The National Center For Drug Free Sport (NCDFS) completed a survey in 2001 amongst college soccer players in the USA. Approximately 2.9% of those surveyed admitted taking amphetamines on a regular basis. The percentage of women's soccer players admitting to amphetamine use in 2001 was higher than in any other sport at 4.6%.
Ironically, the majority of the research shows that taking amphetamines prior to an event has no advantage. While it may "psyche up" athletes, excessive stimulation and palpitations can severely hinder performance.
Another banned stimulant commonly used by athletes in many sports is ephedrine. Ephedrine is found in many cold remedies and can be bought as a weight loss supplement in the UK (although it is now banned for this use in many countries including the USA). Although there are a few studies that show limited beneficial effects to athletic performance. thought to be due a reduced perception of exertion, the overall evidence is by no means convincing. Ephedrine use has also been linked with serious health concerns such as heart attack and stroke.