Drug consumption by amateur and professional athletes is a major issue. In 2016, more than 1.81% of athletes tested by the world anti-doping agency had overdosed on drugs. In order to effectively control this growing problem, consistent drug tests have become common in every sport. By taking banned performance drugs it risks peoples place in their team and also gives the team and coach a bad name. One person’s action can lead to the team having a major spiral.
Why do athletes turn to performance enhancing drugs?
A lot of athletes feel a lot of pressure to perform their best for the coaching staff, fans and their team, because of this pressure to meet the expectations of people the athletes turn to performance enhancing drugs. This is why doping tests are being performed to prevent athletes from taking banned substances that can tamper with their health.
When athletes lose their form, they are criticised due to their failures, which leads to stress and anxiety. Many athletes take steroids so as to enhance their performance. However, they might not go for such drugs if they know about the consequences of this decision.
Recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine are performance-reducing drugs that negatively affect their physical as well as mental health. While marijuana is now legalised in many states in the US, it is not suitable for professional athletes.
Through doping tests, it’s possible to determine whether or not an athlete takes illegal drugs, after which sports authorities can charge the culprit with bans and fines.
Professional and amateur athletes are expected to compete with others in a fair way and abide by the rules of the game. But, when an athlete consumes steroids to enhance their performance through illegal means, it is no longer a fair playing field for all competing in the game.
Drug testing techniques were introduced in sports to promote fair play. It ensures that no athlete enjoys an unfair advantage over other participants who are trying to win the game without implementing unfair tactics.
What testing is currently in place for seeing who is taking performance enhancing drugs?
Although testing procedures are now in place to deter steroid use among professional and Olympic athletes, new designer drugs constantly become available that can escape detection and put athletes willing to cheat one step ahead of testing efforts. To detect early use of designer steroids and provide more accurate baseline standards for each athlete, testing laboratories store data from each drug testing sample. These samples are then used as reference points for future testing, thereby eliminating the possibility that a person tests positive simply because he or she has naturally elevated levels of testosterone when compared to the general population.
How can we improve this testing to make it more accurate?
These widely used color tests are simple to use, but researchers and legal experts know the results can be questionable. Some reagents turn color when exposed not only to a particular illegal drug, but also to over-the-counter medications and a host of other substances. Also, some illegal drugs, such as BZP and MDMA (commonly referred to as ecstasy), are not detectable with color tests. The researchers developed a fluorometer by making a small black box with a 3-D printer. They then used a low-cost cold cathode lamp (to provide the fluorometer’s excitation light) and powered the system with a rechargeable lithium ion battery. The unit allows investigators to identify powders and other substances using a paper test strip soaked in copper iodide. Certain classes of drugs react with the copper by giving off a fluorescent light signature unique to the drug.
What are some side-effects of taking performance enhancing drugs?
At low doses, stimulants can lead to increased perspiration, shaking, inability to focus, and sleep loss, as well as low appetite and dehydration. In higher doses, stimulants can also lead to more severe health effects, such as rapid heart rate and high blood pressure.
What are the statistics for drug use in sports worldwide?
In one anonymous survey of several thousand world-class amateur athletes, up to 57 percent admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in the past year, according to a study published in the journal Sports Medicine.
Why does this need to stop?
Having some athletes taking performance enhancing drugs makes it unfair in others participating in the sport and therefore no one is on the same even playing field. Not only does it affect the player taking the drugs but it can have negative effect on the other players in the team and the coach.
What is our solution?
Can earwax give reliable proof of drug use?
Possibly. Forensic science is always innovating in its search for effective methods. Typically, forensic analysis for neuropsychiatric drugs comes from blood and urine samples. But some drugs have such a short half-life that traditional tests aren’t always accurate, while other testing methods—saliva, sweat, hair and nails—can prove unreliable, with a high risk of contamination and a difficult collection process.
In the search for better methods, forensic scientists are now looking at the use of cerumen, commonly called “earwax.” Earwax is secreted from ceruminous glands, essentially a type of sweat gland. A broad range of drugs including ETOH (alcohol), amphetamines, cocaine, methadone, along with psychotropic and antiepileptic (anti-seizure) drugs are found in sweat, often in higher concentrations than in blood. The logic follows that if these substances can be seen in sweat, then they should also show up in cerumen.
In a Brazilian study, cerumen samples were obtained from 17 individuals that used antiepileptic and antipsychotic drugs. Many of the drugs tested were found in major concentrations in the sampled cerumen. Phenytoin was detected and quantified in an individual who had stopped using the drug two months prior to the study. Cerumen testing is promising not only for evaluating recent drug use, but also for drug use from previous months.
Familiarity with forensic science and its technological advances isn’t only for the scientific community, but also for the legal community. Trending issues in substance abuse testing are valuable information for both prosecuting and defense attorneys. Earwax may just become part of every criminal attorney’s vernacular.