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Certain international sports federations are requesting that glucocorticoids (GCs) should be removed from the World Antidoping Agency (WADA)’s list of banned products. Their arguments are based on the fact that GCs are in widespread use in sports medicine and have no demonstrated ergogenic activity. We will show that, although their ergogenic activity may be difficult to detect, it is real and the use of corticosteroids poses a real danger to athletes’ health. We consider that this class of product should remain on the WADA’s list of banned products.
There is nothing in the literature to support the hypothesis that there is any relationship between performance and corticosteroid use in humans, but this is explained by the fact that little work has been done on this question and that the work that has been done has been based on inappropriate tests. In consequence, the data available do not necessarily mean that GCs do not affect performance.
In the experiments cited, performance was evaluated in terms of effects either on maximal oxygen consumption (maximum duration 10–12 min)1 or a short series of submaximal exertions;2 in no case has a prolonged endurance test (to exhaustion) been conducted, nor any series of brief high-effort exercises in which GCs might attenuate impressions of fatigue and pain. In practice, certain of their known pharmacological properties suggest that GCs could indeed enhance performance, and this would explain why they are in such widespread use in the sporting world: neurostimulatory effects at cerebral GC receptors could attenuate central impressions of fatigue, and anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects could inhibit sensations of muscle pain on effort as well as raising the fatigue threshold. The metabolic effects of these compounds consolidate glycogen reserves in muscle tissue3 and accelerate lipolysis and glycolysis mechanisms induced by catecholamines and growth hormone, …
Competing interests: None.