Are Athletes Using Painkillers As Performance Enhancing Drugs

This week I have come across two articles that have cast a spot light on the use and abuse of pain medication in world of sports. The stories left me convinced painkillers in pro sports is a form of legal doping.

The first story is the tragic story of NHL player Derek Boogaard. The following intro from New York Times article is enough to shock you……

In his final three seasons playing in the National Hockey League, before dying last year at 28 of an accidental overdose of narcotic painkillers and alcohol, Derek Boogaard received more than 100 prescriptions for thousands of pills from more than a dozen team doctors Read the Rest of the story at NYT Times.

The story details how Derek sustained his short Career by relying on powerful painkillers and anti anxiety medications such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, xanax, Ambien and tramadol. The medications were prescribed to treat multiple injuries.

The next story was from BBC sports. FIFA is alarmed by rampant abuse of painkillers in soccer/football. Fifa’s chief medical officer has said the “abuse” of pain killers is putting the careers and long-term health of international footballers in jeopardy. The major factor in the growing use of painkillers in football is the pressure on team doctors to get injured players back on the pitch quickly.

Soccer players take pain killers as a preventive. They take them to prevent a pain which may occur, to be totally insensitive. The story also noted that n the United States, 12 former NFL players are now suing the league over the use of the powerful anti-inflammatory drug Toradol. They argue that the medication masked the pain of head injuries and led them to play on and suffer concussions as result.

As these stories show, the primary reason is to continue performing beyond your natural level. The smoking gun evidence that painkillers can be used to enhance performance was piece from BBC follow up article,

“It’s well known that Andreas Erm who won a bronze medal in the 50km walk in the 2003 world athletic championship in Paris received pain killers several times during the walk – can you tell me this is not performance enhancing?

“His body was not able to walk 50km on this day in such a speed but he won the bronze medal because he was treated with pain killing medications!” Read the rest of the story at BBC Science.

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