Glossary: ‘sports science’ drugs

There are so many “performance enhancing” drugs floating around - but what do they actually do? heather aitken

Ever since a year-long investigation by the Australian Crime Commission alleged “widespread use” of drugs in sport we’ve been hearing about a dizzying array of substances allegedly used by elite athletes.

To help you make sense of it all we’ve compiled the following glossary.

AOD9604: AOD9604 is a synthetic peptide taken orally. The small peptide mimics a section of the growth hormone molecule which increases fat metabolism and decreases the production of fat. AOD9604 is claimed to reduce fat, increase muscle mass and possibly help recover from joint cartilage damage. However, there is currently no published human data to support these claims. AOD9604 is not approved for human use, but is used in sport for weight loss and muscle enhancement and the perception that it helps recover from tissue damage. This drug was highlighted in the Australian Crime Commission report on Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport. No significant adverse effects have been reported yet, but AOD9604 is now prohibited by WADA.
–– Ian Musgrave

Cerebrolysin: A mixture of peptides extracted from pig brain that supports the development and function of nerve cells, cerebrolysin can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia but because the drug needs to be injected daily, it doesn’t have a clear benefit over existing oral medication. It’s not known to have any major side effects. In sports, cerebrolysin used to enhance mental function and “defog” the brain, although there is no good evidence that it has any effect in healthy individuals. It’s not currently listed as banned under WADA, either directly or via similarity of mechanism to banned peptides.
–– Ian Musgrave

CJC1295: A growth hormone-releasing peptide, CJC1295 was first made by a Canadian biotechnology company to reduce fat deposits in obese AIDS patients. Research has shown that almost 100% of people injected with CJC1295 experienced side effects such as high blood pressure, diarrhoea, and headaches. There is no published evidence that CJC1295 produces any benefit to athletes. There is little or no peer-reviewed evidence that CJC1295 gives any advantage in sports, and as a growth hormone-releasing substance, is banned by WADA.
–– Peter Fuller

Colostrum: The very early form of milk secreted late in pregnancy and in the first few days after birth, colostrum contains a complex mixture of nutrients, antibodies (to build immunity) and growth factors (to stimulate gut development) which are important to a newborn’s health and development, though its effects in adults are less clear. There’s little evidence that colostrum consumption (typically cow colostrum) improves the immune status of athletes. While not directly banned, colostrum could stimulate Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) secretion. IGF-1 is banned, but stimulation of its secretion by nutritional supplements is a grey area.
–– Ian Musgrave

Endurobol (GW501516): Classified under a group of drugs called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) agonists, Endurobol’s potential abuse in athletes is based on animal studies that showed it could improve endurance, increase fat metabolism, improve glucose uptake in skeletal muscle tissue, and increase in muscle gene expression. At the moment, there is insufficient evidence for these sport performance outcomes in humans. Human side-effects are currently also unknown. Endurobol is prohibited both in and out of competition under WADA’s Prohibited List.
–– Benjamin Koh

EPO: Erythropoietin (EPO) is a naturally occurring hormone found in the blood, but media usually refer to the artificial peptide (recombinant EPO). EPO stimulates production of red blood cells to improve oxygen transfer and boost endurance or recovery from anaerobic exercise. EPO is also believed to increase the risk of adverse health effects, but this has mainly been based on athletes’ anecdotal evidence and clinical studies in non-sports patients with other medical conditions. While using recombinant EPO is prohibited both in and out of competition under WADA’s Prohibited List, “natural” boosting of EPO through high altitude training is allowed.
–– Benjamin Koh

Gamma-Oryzanol (γ-Oryzanol): An antioxidant extracted from rice bran oil, wheat bran and some fruits and vegetables, γ-Oryzanol has been used as an alternative medicine in the treatment of high cholesterol, symptoms of menopause and ageing, mild anxiety and stomach upsets. Although it is used in sports to apparently increase testosterone and growth hormone levels, as well as improving strength during resistance exercise training, there is not enough evidence to determine its effect on hormone levels in humans. Even though animal studies suggest that γ-Oryzanol might actually reduce testosterone production, it has been marketed to, and used by, body builders and strength-training athletes in the hope of boosting strength, increasing muscle gain, reducing body fat, speeding recovery and reducing post-exercise soreness. γ-Oryzanol is not banned by WADA.
–– Benjamin Koh

Hexarelin: Part of a family of drugs called growth hormone-releasing peptides (GHRP; commonly shortened in media to “peptides”) Hexarelin increases the body’s production of its own human growth hormone, and in so doing may help increase muscle mass and strength. The potential adverse effects of repeated doses of peptides may include various hormonal imbalances in the body. Hexarelin is banned by WADA. –– Benjamin Koh

Melanotan II: A synthetic hormone, originally developed to protect against sunlight and theoretically reduce the incidence of sun cancer, Melanotan II has also be found to stimulate male erections. Anecdotally, users report weight loss when using melanotan II and there is experimental evidence to suggest that melanotan II sends signals to the brain that the body is full. Reports of harm are rare, though it has been known to break down muscle tissue. Melanotan II is not approved for therapeutic use but is widely used by the general public. At Schedule 4 in the Poisons Standard, it is not banned by name in sport, but its anabolic effects might fall under the general “similarity of mechanism” clause.
–– Ian Musgrave

Solcoseryl: Derived from calves’ blood and is believed to speed up healing of damaged or injured tissues, solcoseryl is currently used in humans as eye gel for corneal ulcers, a jelly/ointment for gangrene and bedsores, burns and wound healing, and inflammation of gums, lips and mouth ulcers. No major adverse effects been reported. Solcoseryl is not specifically banned under WADA as a substance but can potentially be banned as a method depending on how the substance is administered and how much is used.
–– Benjamin Koh

Thymosin beta-4 (TB-4): A naturally occurring protein found in blood platelets, TB-4 plays a role in the repair and regeneration of injured tissues in the human body. It was first detected in the thymus, a gland that produces white blood cells. While it’s recently been used to treat horses and implicated in horse doping, it’s also found its way into bodybuilding circles. While there is no published evidence that TB-4 produces any benefit to athletes, it was added to the WADA banned substances list in 2011.
–– Peter Fuller

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