Death from Steroids. Can Steroids Cause Death?
The first recorded death from steroids sports occurred in 1879 when in France, an English cyclist died from an overdose of amphetamines during a race. At the 1960 Olympics in Rome, a Danish cyclist died from using the drugs. These deaths went almost unnoticed. Only when the English athlete Tommy Simpson, who used stimulant drugs, suddenly died on the course of the Tour de France in 1967 right on the track, in front of millions of viewers, the International Olympic Committee seriously thought about the problem of doping. The following year, doping control was first introduced at the Olympic Games in Mexico City.
In 1987, erythropoietin caused the death of approximately 20 European cyclists. Although it has not been proven that it was erythropoietin that caused the death of these athletes, many experts argue that fatty blood clotting leads to embolism and death due to large doses of erythropoietin combined with dehydration.
Despite the scandals and deaths during the Tour de France race in 1998, experts continue to argue that erythropoietin is widespread among cyclists, as well as skiers and swimmers. (Meduna V., 2000)
Science about the issue
In scientific journals, many deaths of athletes who use doping drugs are described, and the largest number of them is associated with the use of anabolic steroids in bodybuilding.
A number of publications describe the sudden deaths of young bodybuilders and powerlifters. Luke J.L. et al. (Luke J.L. et al., 1990) describe the death of a 21-year-old athlete during powerlifting exercises (directly during abdominal exercises). The athlete used steroids (nandrolone) for the previous several months. Death came from a cardiac arrest.
A publication by Dickerman R.D. (Dickerman R.D. et al., 1995) describes the death of a 20-year-old bodybuilder taking steroids and dying of cardiopulmonary shock. Another publication by this author and other co-authors (Dickerman R.D. et al., 1996) says about the death of a 26-year-old bodybuilder who died as a result of pulmonary thromboembolism. As a reason, the mechanism of the influence of anabolic steroids on the blood coagulation system is considered. It is based on the binding of steroids to receptors on the surface of platelets, which leads to their activation and the initiation of coagulation and thrombus formation.
Dickerman r.D. says that in most cases, the sudden death of bodybuilders is associated with thromboembolism and, depending on the location of the thrombus, the causes of death are cardiopulmonary shock, myocardial infarction, and cerebral stroke.
Kennedy M.C. and Lawrence C. describe the deaths of 18-year-old and 24-year-old players due to sudden cardiac arrest during training (Kennedy M.C., Lawrence C., 1995). The coronary arteries were completely healthy, and no blood clots were found. Traces of anabolic steroids were found in both urine samples. Myocardial hypertrophy, which was found in both, is considered as the cause of death.
Kierzkowska B. describes a case of myocardial infarction (an athlete was saved) in a 17-year-old bodybuilder who took clenbuterol (a selective β2-adrenergic agonist with anabolic and fat-burning effects) (Kierzkowska B. et al., 2005).
What is the main reason for death caused by steroids?
This short review shows that the mechanisms of the negative impact of pharmacological drugs on the body are not always clear, and the causes of death may be different. Nevertheless, they all share a common reason – the failure of the cardiovascular system.
Now the “blacklists” of the International Olympic Committee contain 142 drugs, not counting their analogs and substitutes: 30 types of anabolics, 32 types of diuretics.
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