The Current

What Happens When You Stop Doping

The (unlawful) wins might not be worth what comes after.

Pro athletes wouldn't eat a burger without checking out the nutrition facts, so why do so many dope without understanding the side effects?     Photo: Dolomites-image/Thinkstock

We know what happens to some athletes who dope. Ever wonder what happens when they stop?

While some performance benefits might be lasting, the overall effects are far less pleasant—or even fully understood. "While the athlete may perceive some short-term benefit from doping, the longer-term consequences can be quite severe," said Dr. Thomas Hudzik, associate director of Preclinical Safety at AbbVie, a research-based pharmaceuticals company in North Chicago. "Does the doping substance cause cancer if taken repeatedly? Who knows? No one has done the toxicology studies."

And the effects can vary widely between people based on the type of substance abused, method, dose and duration of exposure, genetics, and training.

“Some substances, particularly the long-term use of hormones, whether anabolic steroids, glucocorticosteroids (hormones that prevent inflammation) or others, with the negative feedback loop may cause long-term damage to the endocrinologic system,” said Dr. Alan Vernec, medical director of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Another potential problem occurs when men on dope stop making testosterone. The hypothalamus, accostomed to steriod coming in from the outside, shuts off the production of testosterone, said Dr. Harrison Pope, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and attending physician at McLean Hospital.

If the steroids were used over a prolonged period of time, it could take weeks, months, or even years for testosterone production to come back to normal. As a result, some men may experience low sex drive and impaired erectile functioning, Pope said.

Bottom line: Because of a lack of professional studies, we don't have a good idea what happens to an athletes body after doping.  Ingesting a bunch of chemicals that haven't been scientifically tested doesn't seem like a great idea—but our writer did so anyway.

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