Performance-Enhancing Substances in Sports: A Review of the Literature


Performance-enhancing substances (PESs) have unfortunately become ubiquitous in numerous sports, often tarnishing the spirit of competition. Reported rates of PES use among athletes are variable and range from 5 to 31 %. More importantly, some of these substances pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of athletes. Common PESs include anabolic–androgenic steroids, human growth hormone, creatine, erythropoietin and blood doping, amphetamines and stimulants, and beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate. With recent advances in technology, gene doping is also becoming more conceivable. Sports medicine physicians are often unfamiliar with these substances and thus do not routinely broach the topic of PESs with their patients. However, to effect positive change in the sports community, physicians must educate themselves about the physiology, performance benefits, adverse effects, and testing methods. In turn, physicians can then educate athletes at all levels and prevent the use of potentially dangerous PESs.

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The authors would like to acknowledge Florence Lee, MD and Li-yuan Yu-Lee, PhD for their assistance with the preparation of figures for this manuscript. The authors have no potential conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review. No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review.

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Momaya, A., Fawal, M. & Estes, R. Performance-Enhancing Substances in Sports: A Review of the Literature. Sports Med 45, 517–531 (2015).

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  • Amphetamine
  • Creatine Supplementation
  • National Collegiate Athletic Association
  • Major League Baseball
  • Sprint Performance