Performance-Enhancing Drugs Work

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Performance-enhancing drugs work, but how much?

[W]e’ll use the example they give of a German Female shot-put athlete. This athlete had been training for 14 years before she was put onto the programme, so certainly, her improvement in results cannot be explained by a response to training, as it might be if she was still a junior athlete.

So the Figure below shows the improvement in performance in this woman shot putter during a 5 month period in 1968. The blue block on the X-axis shows when she was given the drug — Turinabol, in doses of 14 tablets per week (10 mg per day, each tablet = 5mg). You’ll see how she gains muscle strength and improves her performances dramatically in only a few weeks — we’re talking 9% over the course of about 10 weeks of drug use! But it gets better (or worse, depending on your point of view!)

Jump ahead to 1969, where the same woman went through very much the same procedure. The Figure below shows the performances over a similar five month period. This time, the drug was administered in slightly higher doses, and in three separate cycles. The result is the same. Her performance improved by an amazing 17% from the start to the end of the season, with a new world record of 20.10 m the culmination.

There was more to come. In 1970, the same athlete was again systematically doped, but with even higher doses. She once again broke the world record, and this time, broke the indoor world record as well. She ended with a personal best of 20.22 m, which was a fully 2m further than she had managed to achieve on 14 years of training BEFORE starting on the doping programme! This is an 11% improvement! But what is particularly important is to notice how her performances when NOT ON THE DRUG are so ‘poor’ — she starts each season a full 3 m off what she will reach at the end, with the aid of the steroid.

Anabolic steroids also dramatically improved female runners’ times — by 4–5 seconds in the 400 m, 5–10 s in the 800 m, and by 7–10 s in the 1500 m:

So if you look at the current world record in the 400 m event, it stands at 47.60 (Marita Koch). No one has managed to even threaten it since the 1980′s, and it’s quite conceivable, assuming the table above is correct, that this 47.60 is worth about, oh, 50.60. And suddenly then, today’s runners are comparable!


  1. Doctor Pat says:

    Not to be rude, but isn’t the question of whether performance enhancing drugs work like the equally mysterious question of whether water is wet?

  2. Isegoria says:

    What’s amusing is that the medical authorities worked hard from the get-go to establish that performance-enhancing drugs do not work.

    I remember an account from a journalist who sat in on a presentation by a doctor to the assembled Olympic athletes on the American team in the 1960s, in which he asserted that “tissue-building” (anabolic) drugs did not work. One of the weightlifters in the back snorted, and the journalist asked him why. The lifter pulled out a photo.

    “Who’s that?” the journalist asked.

    “That’s me,” the burly lifter said, “six months ago.” The drugs worked.

    The lifting community didn’t come to the drugs predisposed toward believing in them. They’d tried expensive soy protein powder and vitamins before — there was way more money in selling those than in selling expensive-to-ship, low-margin iron weights — and when the first lifters tried anabolic steroids, they assumed their results were coming from the new isometric routine they were trying at the same time.

    It took decades before American medical scientists were willing to test the effects of steroids as used by athletes, and — surprise!they boosted performance in a few short weeks, and most of the results lasted long after they quit.

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