Performance Enhancing Drugs – A real problem or another dose of fear?

Brought to you by The Couch Pundit Podcast


TDC reaches back into the archives and pulls out a blog written by keego about performance
enhancing drugs in sport.

Originally posted on 12/2/13.

I was listening to George Hook (@ghook) on his show, The Right Hook, on newstalk earlier today and the conversation moved on to performance enhancing drugs in sport. My ears perked up because I always find these conversations very interesting.

To start, I always enjoy listening to George on his show. I enjoy when he gets wound up. He asks good, thought out questions. The same during the rugby on rte. He was bang on after the England match by the way, the only problem was he sounded like our grumpy uncle while making his point. The interviewee was a well educated ‘expert’ (Dr. Conor O’Brien) in the field of drugs in sports. Educated to the point where he used the term ‘agents’ instead of ‘drugs’. There where musings about all of the reports lately about Armstrong, Australian sports and baseball. All run of the mill stuff.

Then Dr. O’Brien began speaking about creatine and steroids.



The Wikipedia definition of Creatine is: An athletic aids used to increase high-intensity athletic performance. Researchers have known of the use of creatine as an energy source by skeletal muscles since the beginning of the 20th century. They were popularized as a performance-enhancing supplement in 1992.

Just to clarify my position, I am not pro p.e.d, I am against drugs in sport, and I am also against an expert saying things with no proof. In this instance Dr. O’Brien began to say that creatine could, I repeat could, cause mutation in cells. There was zero back up to support this, zero examples of when this has happened. He may as well have said that creatine can turn you into a donkey. This is typical of the type of conversations we are having on this topic. George mentioned that he had written about creatine in schools rugby years ago. It has been a while (I won’t mention how long) since I was in school, but I remember taking creatine for the first time in 1998. I had to send away for it because it was not readily available. It cost me £29.99 by the way. A year later there was a report about schools coaches putting their teams on courses of creatine to make them bigger. That was 14 years ago; there have been no mentions of taking this out of the stores, no deaths or injuries because of it. The FACT is you cannot find me one case of death or serious injury cause by creatine alone. People blame creatine for Jonah Lomu’s kidney problems; anyone with a brain knows that this is not the case. Creatine has not been shown to mutate cells or turn people into donkeys. Creatine has been shown to produce higher strength when used properly. Dr. O’Brien went on to say that these supplements can be contaminated in the factory they are made. So can your salads you buy in Tesco, it may contain nuts. These products are made in factories, not someone’s shed.

I have used creatine off and on since 1998 and I have found it to be a great addition to an ok diet and have increased my strength quite a bit. I am not a mutant or a donkey (although I am on the football pitch); I am a healthy, strong person.

I would wager that Dr/ O’Brien has never taken creatine, has never used it in conjunction with a workout regimen and a good diet.



Now we move on to steroids, cue the scary music. Dr/ O’Brien said that it causes ‘roid rage’, forgetting to mention that at 3am on a Saturday night there are people ‘raging’ after 5 double vodka and red bulls. The FACT is, that if you are an arsehole, steroids will make you a bigger arsehole (literally). You stay the same size on vodka. That is the difference. Steroids are used to help treat cancer patients, to help the old and infirm with their energy and strength and are a way of increasing the level of testosterone in the body.  Yes they can be abused, but so can coffee and orange juice. So can alcohol and cigarettes. There are ZERO deaths caused by steroids, you will not find one! Any of the reported deaths have been from a cocktail of drugs in the system. I am not saying steroids are great and everyone should use them, I am saying they can help aid someone to have a better way of life when administered by a professional. The scaremongering on the right hook earlier was downright irresponsible. To have a professional saying steroids cause cancer, roid rage and shorten the lifespan without any proof is not the way an expert should deliver the message. a good steroid article written in non medical jargon. This is a good article, but again is very pro one side of the argument.

The International Rugby Board allow for testosterone (steroids) to be used in cases where the athlete has a low level in his system. The idea being to level the playing field. This is so easily cheated that it is laughable. The athlete stays up all night, being tired lowers the levels naturally, the doctor then writes a prescription and the athlete takes the shot. Meaning that the recovery time post game is much shorter, the muscle mass is more than he/she had naturally thus gaining an unfair advantage.

So what the IRB are saying, is that it is ok to take steroids, but you must have a script from the doctor. This is the same in boxing, MMA, The NFL and professional baseball.

Athletes will always do whatever they can for an advantage.

There are drugs in all sports at all levels. Steroids and creatine are used in collision sports where mass is paramount. Until we educate people and/or are in a financial position to test every single athlete we will continue to see abuse of p.e.d. Educating people is very easy, but it is not done because we like to see the big hits, the home runs, the mammoth kicks.

I repeat, I am not for drugs in sport. I am for education and for Doctors to talk to people like adults and not try scaring people.

At the end of the day the drugs conversation is very similar to the guns problem in America. Creatine and Steroids do not kill people, stupid people abuse them with recreational and prescription drugs and kill themselves. Dr. O’Brien on the right hook was so intent in scaring people that it was quite worrying.

There is also a question of what is a performance enhancing drug? Novak Djokavic sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber which increases the level of red blood cells which aids endurance. It does EXACTLY the same thing as EPO ( Djokavic is looked on as one of the best players to ever play the game, but others who used EPO are looked down on as scum for bringing the sport into disrepute. Where is the line? The results are the same, but one is illegal. Which one is a performance enhancing drug, and if we agree that both are a form of doping then surely both should be seen as cheats?

If you haven’t seen it, I would suggest you put the kettle on and watch ‘bigger, stronger, faster’ which is a documentary about steroid use in America. It is a great watch and great for seeing both sides of the arguments.

As usual,if you would like to debate/rant/abuse me feel free to reach out to me @nkeegan on twitter.

2 thoughts on “Performance Enhancing Drugs – A real problem or another dose of fear?

  1. Great even minded piece. I read a study before that showed that the placebo effect of telling a group they were receiving steroids created a bigger increase in ‘rage’ incidents than actual steroids did in another group in the test.

    I’m surprised and a bit shocked to hear that players are allowed use testosterone, its a tacit admission that the IRB cannot or will not police that drug’s use. Personally I believe a lot of peds such as growth hormone could have a big benefit in the treatment of injuries for athletes but needs to be properly tracked throughout the career. Unfortunately the money is not there for that sort of medical surveillance so we end up with rules like this.

    Also high altitude training creates the same effect as epo which even more athletes use than the hyperbaric chamber.


    1. Good points . There’s no definition of what a ped is. Once the sporting governing bodies do that then we can move forward.

      Cheers for reading the post, feel free to share it


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