Steroids: The Ongoing Competitive Edge


Prior to and during the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games, 15 Greek athletes, including weightlifters, tested positive for methyltrienolone, a particularly rare anabolic steroid. Currently, Olympic athletes caught using performance enhancing drugs serve a suspension and are banned from competing for a determined amount of time. But once the suspension is lifted and doping tests come back clean, is the playing field fair once again?

Maybe not. A new study shows anabolic steroids provide a competitive edge in power lifting–years after doping has ended.

Swedish researchers tested three groups of power lifters: One that had used anabolic steroids for long periods but stopped years ago, another group that didn’t use steroids at all, and a third that was currently taking steroids.

They found that while physical traces of the drug no longer remained in the athletes that had stopped taking the drugs, changes in the shoulder and quadriceps muscles still gave lifters an advantage years later.

Unlike weightlifting, which is a dynamic sport, power lifting is a static one that requires the use of a heavy weights to perform three reps each for the squat, bench press and deadlift. The use of anabolic steroids can add more nuclei to the muscle and enhance type IIB muscle fiber size, which is what power lifters rely on for their sport.

“Based on the characteristics between doped and non-doped power lifters, we conclude that a period of anabolic steroid usage is an advantage for a power lifter in competition, even several years after they stop taking a doping drug,” lead researcher Dr. Eriksson said.

Why does this matter to you? Whether you’re a professional athlete or not, the study demonstrates the playing field may never be even, despite the best anti-doping efforts by governing sports bodies.