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Means and methods

What types of doping are there?

One of the prohibited methods is "blood doping" - this is the administration of whole blood or preparations containing red blood cells. Chemical manipulation is also part of it. This means, for example, that athletes add some other substance to their urine when they are dispensed in order to conceal the existence of prohibited substances.

The prohibited active ingredients include substances such as anabolic steroids, growth hormones or amphetamines. The list of prohibited substances is long and growing.


Stimulants are stimulants. They have a stimulating effect on the body. The stimulants include amphetamines, cocaine, and ecstasy. Ephedrine, a substance found in many cough suppressants, also falls under the category of stimulants.


Stimulants suppress feelings of fatigue and create high spirits. That is why they are used particularly often in endurance sports. But they are also used in other sports, such as soccer, because they reduce inhibitions and increase aggressiveness.

Side effects:

Severe exhaustion, breakdowns, nausea, cardiac arrhythmias, circulatory failure, brain disorders, complete exhaustion and even death.


In the group of narcotics, a distinction must be made between opioid-like analgesics of the morphine type and non-opioid-like analgesics such as aspirin and voltaren; the former are on the prohibited list, the latter are allowed.


Narcotics are mainly used to relieve pain.

Side effects:

Changes in mood and perception, in combination with stimulants, severe exhaustion.

Anabolic agents

The group of anabolic agents has been subdivided since 1993: on the one hand into the anabolic androgenic steroid hormones, on the other hand into the other anabolic substances such as ß2 agonists.

Anabolic androgenic steroid hormones, also called anabolic steroids, were banned for the first time in 1976 and have since been the group of the most frequently used doping substances; In 1984 the use of the body's own steroid hormone testosterone was banned. The group of anabolic steroids includes nandrolone, metandienone and stanozolol.


Anabolic active ingredients are used, among other things, to build stronger muscles and thereby achieve better athletic performance.

In medicine, ß2 agonists are mainly used therapeutically against asthma. In 1993 they were first declared and banned as doping substances.

The best-known active ingredient from the group of ß2 agonists is Clenbuterol, which is actually used in animal fattening. ß2 agonists are mainly used as doping substances because they stimulate protein synthesis in muscle cells at high doses.

Side effects:

Nausea, vomiting, liver damage up to liver cancer, increased risk of heart attack, acne, mental disorders, hair loss

In young people: stagnation in growth

In women: lower voice, decrease in female sex hormones, masculinization, infertility

In men: smaller testicles, increase in female sex hormones, changes in breast tissue up to breast cancer


Diuretics are diuretics. Basically, they do not lead to an increase in physical performance - they are still used in sports.


On the one hand, the increased fluid excretion caused by diuretics - for example in boxers - can lead to the athlete reaching another, lower weight class and being able to start in this. On the other hand, a dilution effect of doping substances can be achieved with the increased urine excretion; the analytical detection limit can thus be fallen below.

Side effects:

Circulatory disorders, collapse, muscle cramps, stomach and intestinal disorders.

Peptide hormones

Peptide hormones have been on the doping list since 1989. The most important substances in this group include erythropoietin (EPO) and growth hormone (HGH = Human Growth Hormone).

Erythropoietin (EPO)

The same effects can be achieved with genetically produced EPO as with blood doping.


EPO tries to increase the total number of red blood cells (erythrocytes) in order to be able to transport a larger amount of oxygen in the blood.

Side effects:

The increase in the number of erythrocytes (hematocrit) leads to a deterioration in the flowability of the blood - this leads to an increase in blood pressure and an increased risk of thrombosis.

Growth hormone HGH

The growth hormone HGH is a peptide hormone made up of a total of 191 amino acids. Like many other substances that are misused for doping, HGH can also be used therapeutically in medicine, for example to treat dwarfism in children.


By using HGH, athletes hope to gain performance while relying on the anabolic effects of the hormone.

Side effects:

Abnormal growth of bones and internal organs (acromegaly), increased risk of heart attack.

Blood doping

Blood doping is the administration of whole blood or preparations containing red blood cells. In the case of autologous blood transfusion, the athlete can take about one liter of blood, which is then preserved and frozen.

After the targeted blood loss, the production of red blood cells is stimulated by EPO. If the blood volume has reached a normal level again after four to six weeks, the stored blood can be infused, that is, given to the body by infusion.


Blood doping increases the number of red blood cells in the blood. As a result of this increase, an improvement in the oxygen capacity is achieved. In blood doping, a distinction must be made between blood transfusion and autologous blood transfusion.

Side effects:

Risk of infection when transfusing foreign blood, risk of improper storage and possible infections during blood transfer.

Gene doping

Like doping with autologous blood, gene doping is a method that does not add any foreign substances to the athlete. Instead, the genetic material is changed and the body is permanently induced to produce performance-enhancing substances itself.

One way to make the body more efficient through gene doping is to switch off the protein myostatin. Myostatin normally inhibits muscle building at a certain limit.

If it is deactivated, all muscles in the body will theoretically continue to grow. This effect can also occur as a natural genetic mutation, for example in the cattle breed "blue and white Belgian" and very rarely also in humans.

So far, there is no information on whether this type of gene doping is used specifically in humans, but the effect is being intensively researched in experiments in mice and cattle: the body's own genetic material is extracted and part of the genetic information is removed. A piece of mutated DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is then inserted at this point.

The artificial genes are multiplied in a nutrient solution and injected back into the body. There the manipulated genes continue to multiply and cause the protein myostatin to be deactivated.


Gene doping or pharmaceuticals that block myostatin can cause muscles to grow disproportionately. In this way, athletes could train larger and stronger muscles in a short time and thus become significantly more productive.

Side effects:

Side effects are hardly known to date. However, since myostatin generally regulates the growth of all cells in the body, it can be assumed that it is not only the muscles that grow in an uncontrolled manner. It could lead to rapid cancer or uncontrollable deformities and malfunctions of the organs.

It is particularly critical that the doping effect and thus the side effects cannot simply be stopped because the entire genetic material has been artificially changed. The consequences of this far-reaching change are incalculable.

Warning of unauthorized agents

The list of prohibited doping substances is growing, but the demand for doping substances remains. This means that new substances keep coming into circulation - the doping black market is flourishing.

It was not until the end of March 2013 that the global Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) took a rare step and issued a specific warning to all athletes who dope: It issued an urgent warning of a health-endangering doping agent.

In clinical tests, an acute risk of poisoning was determined by the substance with the awkward name "GW501516". The substance falls into the forbidden group of hormones and metabolic modulators. It was developed for the treatment of morbid obesity and adult diabetes, but based on the current results it will not receive clinical approval.