Supplements and drugs used to enhance athletic performance

Pediatr Clin North Am. 2002 Apr;49(2):435-61. doi: 10.1016/s0031-3955(01)00013-x.


The temptation of using drugs and supplements as shortcuts to improving athletic performance or even to enhance appearance is very seductive to adolescents. This age group is often characterized by a desire for quick results and a lack of concern for future consequences. Preventing the use of drugs to enhance athletic performance is difficult even when we have good medical and scientific evidence to prove a dangerous risk-benefit ratio, such as with AASs. The use of "nutritional supplements" is even more difficult to control. The protection of these substances by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 removed control of these substances from the FDA. Therefore, release and widespread use of new supplements occurs before significant clinical study of benefit and adverse effects takes place. The distributors' financial interest, the products' promotional claims, and the athletes' and coaches' insatiable desire to win at all costs are a volatile combination. This spawns the production of a huge number of "natural" products, making it even more difficult to assess efficacy, safety, legality, and purity of these substances. Health care professionals need to rely on research when available, stay current on trends in athletes' drug and supplement use, and discuss the individual athlete's concerns when they arise. The preparticipation physical examination can be a good opportunity for discussion. Finally, physicians need to educate athletes, parents, coaches, trainers, and other physicians. A reasonable strength and conditioning program and a well-balanced diet must be presented as a sensible alternative to a riskier, shortcut mindset.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Doping in Sports / prevention & control
  • Doping in Sports / psychology*
  • Humans