Swissmedic: Performance-enhancing substances in amateur sport are a massive risk to health


Doping offences are common in competitive sports. However, what was previously an everyday occurrences only in professional cycling and weightlifting is now also becoming widespread among leisure sportsmen and in amateur sport in general. On account of the large number of illegal pharmaceuticals confiscated by the Swiss Customs (mainly muscle enhancers) Swissmedic - the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products - now warns about the risks associated with taking these dangerous substances.

Spot checks by Swissmedic at the Customs have revealed that more and more amateur sportsmen in Switzerland are taking anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances purchased from illegal sources. For example, the number of muscle-enhancing substances confiscated almost doubled between 2007 and 2008. Investigations in Swissmedic's own laboratories have shown that out of 17 confiscated anabolic preparations, more than half had given grounds for serious complaints. These extend from contamination of the preparation, undeclared or wrongly declared active substances, to massive under- or overdosage.

Sports enthusiasts who have recourse to banned substances are playing with their health and are often not aware what dangerous products they are taking, warns Swissmedic. Known side-effects include masculinization in women or gynecomastia (growth of female breasts) and testicular shrinkage in men, acne and alopecia (hair loss), and these affect more than half those regularly taking anabolic drugs. It is mainly the long-term consequences that are devastating. The especially dangerous adverse effects of anabolic drugs, amphetamines and other doping agents include erectile dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, and liver damage. Taking these drugs can also cause severe psychological side-effects, such as greatly increased aggressiveness, owing to the fact that they affect the central nervous system. Taking doping products can totally change a person's personality structure.

Besides the already huge adverse effects caused by these substances, by buying them from dubious sources, especially over the Internet, there is also the danger that they will contain active substances that have never been tested. Many amateur sportsmen are not aware of the dangers here either. Studies into doping in German fitness clubs have revealed that roughly one in five members have already had experience of taking banned substances. Swissmedic presumes that more and more leisure sportsmen in Switzerland are using these harmful substances and warns once again in this connection about the danger of buying these substances over the Internet.