Lance Armstrong overcoming his struggle with cancer and his multiple Tour De France wins made him a popular athletic figure. That made discovering his use of performance enhancing drugs and the stripping of his titles even more tragic. 

Performance enhancing drugs are also called performance-enhancement drugs or PEDs. They are a range of substances that, as the name suggests, enhance athletic performance. They provide an unfair advantage and are banned from competitive sports for this reason. Not only that, their use and abuse are linked to dangerous side effects. We’ll be taking a closer look today at performance enhancing drugs in the aftermath of Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace.

PEDs and Cycling: A Cautionary Tale

Lance Armstrong admitted to using PEDs after winning seven straight Tour De France wins. The discovery of his use of performance-enhancement drugs also called his competitors into question. Armstrong’s confession implicated many of his competitors in using PEDs as well, leading to doubt falling over cycling’s legitimacy. 

It took a subsequent generation of performance enhancing drug-free cyclists, including Australian Cadel Evans, to re-earn the public’s trust. Even still, the aftermath of Armstrong and other cyclists who used PEDs left a persistent doubt that lingers.

The example of Lance Armstrong and cycling’s struggle with PEDs is not unique to their sport. Athletes have been looking for an advantage against their rivals since ancient times. In the 20th century, with advances in chemistry, pharmaceutical options became increasingly targeted and complex. Similar scandals have rocked baseball and other sports over the years, with most sports banning the practice. 

This has not prevented athletes from trying to circumvent the rules or ignoring them entirely. Inevitably this practice is discovered, especially in the wake of exceptional feats of athletics like Lance Armstrong displayed. Such a meteoric rise can only lead to an equally catastrophic fall. The impact of this fall is still being felt in cycling today.

How PEDs Enhance Performance

Exactly how PEDs enhance performance depends on the type of drug in question. At the most technical level, any substance that enhances performance could be considered a performance enhancing drug. However, the most common type of performance enhancing drugs are anabolic steroids, which help build and preserve muscle mass. 

Other substances typically considered PEDs include blood boosters (which increase the blood’s ability to carry oxygen,) and human growth hormone. Human growth hormone, or HGH, cannot be detected in urine like anabolic steroids and other PEDs can. Potential HGH use and abuse can only be determined with a blood test.

Each of these substances offers a range of potential side effects and drawbacks, especially with overuse and abuse. Anabolic steroid abuse in particular is associated with acne, high blood pressure, liver damage, and potential heart damage. With any of these substances, whatever temporary effects they offer in the moment of performance come with significant potential drawbacks. 

Why are PEDs Harmful?

While it can seem tempting to use PEDs, especially where they’re commonplace, the risk is simply not worth it. Not only will you risk your body, but like Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France, risk damaging your reputation. For whatever side effects Armstrong and others like him had to endure, the effects on their reputation have lingered equally. It calls into question not just their previous wins, but the culture that allowed the abuse of PEDs to persist.

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