Monday, June 18, 2012

Medical Mondays: Blance Strarmstrong. Doper. Fictional character.

I'm not really writing about Lance Armstrong.

No, I'm writing about the character in your novel. You know. The handsome, internationally famous athlete that's been accused of doping. Yeah, that one. Blance Strarmstrong.

Let's learn something about doping in athletics, for the sake of your protagonist, Blance.

Doping, or using "performance-enhancing drugs," is a broad term that encompasses any drug used to artificially improve physical performance. This sentence in itself is very controversial and has been picked apart and rewritten countless times. Is Tylenol after a hard workout considered cheating? No. But the lines can get kind of fuzzy here.

In competition, the athletes with the biggest, fastest, strongest bodies--the ones with the most endurance and are immune to the pain of injuries and training--win. The drugs in doping can help a competitor achieve this.

1.  Anabolic steroids. These drugs, most often ending in an -one and -iol (testosterone, androstenediol, for example), build lean muscle mass and reduce fat. Bye bye potbelly, hello biceps! Not only do they masculinize the users (including women--who'll drop their voices and start growing hair in unfeminine places) they can also make you aggressive, depressed, shrink your testicles, and cause acne and liver damage. Fun times!

2. Peptide hormones and growth factors.
  • erythropoetin-like agent (such as EPO, or Epogen) stimulate the bone marrow to grow more red blood cells. Red cells carry oxygen to your body. The more you have, the more oxygen you can deliver to your exercising body. The real Lance Armstrong is dealing with this one.
  • insulin. Apparently it's used along with steroids to boost energy storage in muscles and continue the anabolic effect of steroids.
  • growth factors (growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor, etc) also used to increase muscle mass.
  • hormones like corticotropin, leutinizing hormone, also used to add mass and optimize muscle growth
3. Beta agonists. You've probably heart of albuterol. It's a commonly used inhaler for people with asthma. These types of meds can be inhaled or taken as pills. The widen the airways, can be used as a stimulant, and may increase muscle mass.

4. Hormone modulators. These are things like aromatase inhibitors (commonly used to treat breast cancer or osteoporosis). This one had me scratching my head. Apparently, when using anabolic steroids, the balance between natural estrogens and androgens (female and male hormones--both of which are found naturally in men and women) goes off kilter. Men using steroids can sometimes paradoxically grow breasts (called gynecomastia) because of this imbalance. Using anti-estrogens like aromatase inhibitors can prevent a bodybuilder from needing to buy a bra at Victoria's Secret. Secret indeed!

5. Diuretics and masking substance. Diuretics, such as thiazides, are meds that make you pee like a racehorse, which may help you pass your urine drug test. Other substances, like dextran, albumin, and mannitol, can mask the actual illegal chemicals.

6. Blood enhancers. This includes blood transfusions (your own banked blood, or someone else's) an chemicals that help your blood carry more oxygen, like perflurochemicals or blood substitutes.

7. Gene doping. Yes! This is not sci-fi, this is real! You are not allowed to have genetically modified cells injected into yourself, nor are you allowed to sprinkle DNA on your morning Wheaties.

8. Stimulants. Caffeine? Okay! Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)? Only in tiny amounts. Crystal meth? NO! Adrenaline? NO WAY! Get the picture, speed junky?

9. Narcotics. I know that work out hurt, but no, you cannot call the Morphine Fairy Godmother and make it all go away.

10. Cannabis, or pot. Or weed.  This has no performance enhancing anything. It just makes professional athletes look bad and associates them with that stoner dude from Dazed and Confused. "Catcha later, dude!"


11. Glucocorticoids. These are super powerful anti-inflammatory meds, also helpful in recovering from that tough work out. No prednisone for you!


So what now for our poor character, Blance? Will he continue to use doping drugs to be the best trampolinist at the Olympics? Will his quest to shave off a few cup sizes from his steroid-grown breasts be the end of him? Stay tuned!

For more info, check out the comprehensive list by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The CBC gives a nice description of how and why these substances are used.
And the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency also has a nice overview.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
  All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer. This is for fictional scenarios, only. Please check out the boring but necessary disclaimer on my sidebar ---> Also, don't forget to stop by Laura Diamond's Mental Health Mondays and Sarah Fine's The Strangest Situation for great psychiatric and psychological viewpoints on all things literary. :)

45 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I didn't realize there were so many. Most sound awful.

Deb Salisbury said...

Wow. So many ways to abuse a poor body in the quest for "excellence" - very definitely in quotes here.

mooderino said...

They should have an Olympic for stoners. It would take a while, but be very amusing.

A lot of athletes drink six or seven cups of coffee before a race apparently. I'd be moving fast after that too, straight to the bathroom.

mood

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Alex is right. Most sound horrible. Victor shrieked, ah, exclaimed manly, "Shrink my hubris? No, thank you!"

Carrie Butler said...

I love the illustration of Blance, especially the 'Roid Rage Angry Eyebrows! *Grins*

The Golden Eagle said...

I like the illustration. :P

Interesting post! I hadn't heard of several of these drugs before.

Shelly said...

Having just come from the gym and wondering about some of the folks there and how they got to be the way they are, this explains a lot.

Heather said...

Gone is the true unenhanced athlete. *sigh* It's a shame what some people do to their bodies. Makes me want to use some of this in a novel...

Meredith said...

Haha, I love this! So crazy what steroids can do to you.

Linda Gray said...

I never heard that albuterol could increase muscle mass. Huh. And GENE DOPING??? Good grief! Are there any real athletes left??? So glad to hear caffeine is not on the DO NOT USE list--we armchair point guards need our coffee!

Stephen Tremp said...

Wow! I'm glad I just smoked a little weed back in the day and that's all. I never put anything else in my body and feel really good about that.

Jeremy Bates said...

Two things:

1. I once had an acquaintance who was thoroughly addicted to nasal inhalers. He would get wired on that stuff but he was never a meter away from a bottle of it.

2. I was reading a medical transcription recently about a patient drug hunting in a hospital. The doctor ran a urine screen that had a trace amount of benzos. Ironically, the guy finally admitted that he had been diruesing himself with jello and water mixed. That was a new one on me.

What addicts and athletes will do for a fix amazes me at times.

Old Kitty said...

Suddenly I feel glad I'm just addicted to coffee, wine and chocolate! :-) Take care
x

Shelley Munro said...

I didn't realize there were so many different substances. I'm not sure the benefits outweigh the side effects!

Talli Roland said...

Oh, Blance. Sigh!

When I was a runner I used to have to pee in front of someone on a regular basis. Not a fun task!

(I should explain the peeing was for the purpose of drugs testing...) :)

Connie Keller said...

Wow! It's really sad to see what people are willing to do for an extra edge. I've read that this kind of stuff has spread even to high school athletes.

(When I worked at a cytogenetics lab, I heard horror stories about how they used to have to verify athletes' gender genetically back in the day of the Eastern block countries. I guess people have always been willing to do whatever it takes to win, no matter what the cost.)

Karen Lange said...

Wow, I didn't realize there were so many. Thanks for the info.

Clarissa Draper said...

Awesome resource. I'm totally addicted to number 8 - caffeine.

Coleen Patrick said...

Lydia, I think you just made a case for keeping the pot belly. LOL :)

vbtremper said...

Love your graphic! Performance-enhancing drugs have been used so often on TV, that I'd hesitate to use them in books. Thanks for the info to help us choose something less "used!"

-Vicki

Barbara Watson said...

So much ick just to get an edge. My husband coaches high school football and basketball players and works in the weight room with them too. Hopefully they see the benefits of hard work rather than manufacturing an edge.

Carol Kilgore said...

Poor Blance. Lost his brain somewhere along the way.

Great overview of these drugs!

David P. King said...

This post couldn't have been more timely I have a new character that I was toying with the idea of having problems with steroid addiction. This will make an excellent resource. Thanks! :)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I had no idea there were so many. I guess the word "sportsman" has a different meaning than it used to, because there's no sporting behavior in any of this.

Bathwater said...

Sounds awful confusing, part of a full time job. People are not really people anymore.

nutschell said...

Gosh! That's a lot of drugs. I do love your medical mondays, though:)
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

lbdiamond said...

You'd think the tiny nuts thing would be enough to stop most guys from doping...LOL

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oooh, interesting. Amazing what people will try. :(

Sarah said...

OK. I did NOT expect to howl with laughter while reading a post on performance-enhancing drugs. *wanders off to find DNA sprinkles*

lexcade said...

Steroids should NOT be this funny! Thanks for the awesome post (as usual), Lydia.

...I wonder if you're not using blogging-enhancing drugs. *narrows eyes* Here. Pee in this cup.

Leslie S. Rose said...

I was paranoid when I had to take steroids for pneumonia. Dumping things unnecessarily into the body just creeps me out.

Jenny Woolf said...

I used to think that athletes loved and valued their bodies. That was in the days when I was young and naive. Most of these sound horrible.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I had no idea that there were so many ways to abuse a human body. Its mind boggling.

Krispy said...

Like a bunch of people have said, I had no idea there were SO MANY ways to dope. I'm sad I can't sprinkle DNA on my morning Wheaties though. :(

Jennifer Hillier said...

Having never been a competitive athlete, I can't imagine what it must feel like to be so driven (pressured?) to win that you'd do this stuff to your body. Wow.

Annmarie Pipa said...

oh my gosh....so interesting. wow! I am your newest follower.

alexia said...

Medical Mondays are always so interesting! I had no idea how many of those drugs there were. Crazy.

LD Masterson said...

Wow, that's quite a list.

Thank goodness caffeine's okay. I can give up most of those others (the unfeminine hair was annoying me anyway)but not my black tea!

LTM said...

LOL! omg--ew. Now you've got me thinking of that Jim Carrey character--remember when he pretended to be the female athlete on steroids? Gross.

And I'm w/Alex. I had no idea there were so many! :p

Kelly Polark said...

Why, Blance, why!?

This reminds me of the Chris Benoit murder/suicide. He was a WWE wrestler and many speculate the use of steroids helped fuel his depression and rage.

Is a win worth all these side effects?!

Southpaw said...

Great post as usually. I almost didn't recognize your blog I love the new look.

Laurel Garver said...

I take albuterol for exercise-induced asthma. I had no idea it could increase muscle mass. Pardon my glee, but WOO HOO! My unathletic self needs all the help it can get to simply not be a total slug. (I promise to never compete at sports.)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I worked with a guy who was taking some sort of cocktail of steroids for an athletic competition. His body bulked, but his personality went from sweet to scary angry. It was creepy.

Really interesting post.

Wendy Lu said...

Lydia, I left you a blog award today at The Red Angel for being super stylish! :) I look up to you, you know!

Hope you're having a great week so far. I love your Medical Mondays!

~Wendy Lu

Maurice Mitchell said...

Lydia, I wondered what they meant by "blood doping" and now I know. @Sarah, I've started selling Wheaties with DNA sprinkles. I can sell them to you wholesale.

 
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