Boxing is one sport that requires a lot of physical strength; it pushes the human body to its limits. In trying to cope with the physical need of boxing, boxers use steroids as performance inhibitors. These steroids come in different forms with varying usage. Most boxers deny taking these steroids when tested positive, some of them blame it on their food supplements. Failed drug tests are becoming a regular thing in boxing and it appears to be a dark force that is working its evil in the background. It now seems to be more a case of if they get caught than a case of who is taking them.
It's not to long ago that former WBC female world champion, Mia St. John, set the boxing Twittersphere on fire with tweets defending Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez against the heated criticism faced by the Mexican star after he tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol.
St. John went on to say that ‘everyone does it’ in reference to the taking of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in boxing and then, in an interview with the LA Times, lay bare her own PED-use while a professional fighter. Her tweets and subsequent confession sparked widespread indignation and condemnation from the boxing world, ranging from fighters such as Tony Bellew, Claressa Shields and Sergio Mora up to boxing journalist Steve Bunce, all of whom felt that her comments and actions had tarnished the sport and its clean fighters. But is there some truth in the claims made by St. John?
In the light of last weeks events involving Connor Benn we take a closer look at what steroids boxers are taking.
What are Steroids?
Steroids are synthetic chemicals that mimic the effect of naturally-existing hormones in the body.
They work like the naturally-existing hormones, but at higher levels and efficiency.
Types of steroids
There are lots of steroids on the market; they all have their specific use and effect on the body.
We will focus on a group of steroids called Anabolic steroids (muscle building steroids); this is because of their wide use among boxers.
Anabolic steroids are sometimes called androgenic steroids, and they are synthetic derivatives of testosterone – the hormone in the body responsible for strength and aggressiveness.
They act as performance-enhancing drugs (PED).
We will also touch on the usage of Erythropoietin, which is widely used among boxers. It is commonly referred to as EPO.
Some of the most common types of anabolic steroids include:
Stanozolol is one of the most effective steroids on the market; it is an anabolic steroid which is commonly sold under the name, Winstrol.
It is known for its ability to increase the rate of protein synthesis, this leads to a significant increase in muscle mass and the ability to recover quickly from rounds of strenuous exercises.
Side Effects of stanozolol
Every steroid has its characteristic side effect, same side effects occur in several steroids.
These side effects range from mild to severe.
Stanozolol is known to have numerous side effects, some of which are:
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Variations in sexual desire
- Unsettled stomach
- Heart disease
- Alterations in skin color
- Swelling of the ankle
CANELO WAS BANNED FOR 6 MONTHS AFTER A FAILED DRUGS TEST
Dromostalone, a synthetically-produced anabolic steroid, is often used by boxers for its bodybuilding abilities.
It is known to aid the retention of Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus; this results in increased protein anabolism – which is the buildup of protein from Amino acids. This increase in protein anabolism enhances the hardness and density of the muscle.
What are the side effects of Dromostanolone?
Some of the side effects include:
- Enhanced hair growth
- Voice transformation
- Heightened sexual desire
Boldenone is a well-known steroid within the bodybuilding circle.
It is known to provide increased growth of muscle mass.
Unlike other steroids, boldenone acts slowly and steadily.
Boldenone is also known to cause an increase in appetite and does not lead to water retention.
Side effects of Boldenone
- Oily skin
- Increased aggression
- Hair loss
- Decreased testosterone production, or
- Decreased size of testes
4. Erythropoietin (EPO)
EPO wears the crown as the most popular performance-enhancing drug (PED), owing to its advantages over other PEDs and steroids.
EPO is naturally found in minute quantities in the kidneys; they make the bone marrow produce more red blood cells in the body.
We learnt in basic biology that red blood cells contain a substance called hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to various parts of the body.
Now imagine if we increase the quantity of EPO in the bone marrow, this will lead to an increase in red blood cells and invariably lead to more supply of oxygen to the body.
Consequently, more EPO in the body will lead to an increase in Endurance and aerobic capacity.
One advantage of EPO is its sneakiness, this makes it difficult and complex to detect; the test for it is expensive.
You can see why it is popular among performance-enhancing drugs.
Side effects of EPO
- Blood clotting
- Heart attack
What is clomifene?
Clomifene is a drug that is prescribed to women who are struggling with infertility.
The anti-oestrogen medication comes in a pill form and is also known as clomiphene, and the brand name Clomid.
Clomiphene is in a class of medications called ovulatory stimulants and it works similarly to oestrogen - the female sex hormone.
The drug helps stimulate the ovaries to release an egg, and is used to help women conceive.
But studies have shown when it's used by men, low doses can elevate serum testosterone levels.
Why is clomifene a banned substance?
Taking clomifene boosts androgen levels indirectly - male hormones that play a big role in muscle mass and strength.
It works by stimulating the body's own production of testosterone and is known to provide similar results to injection or pellet testosterone.
Clomofine has been misused by athletes in the past and can counter the side effects of anabolic steroid use.
Its been a bad few weeks for the sport of boxing and it seems that the issue around drugs is only going to get worse. It seems common knowledge that many fighters are using PEDS and the punishment handed out doesn't seem severe enough to be a deterrent. It seems there are many ways to manipulate the drug test and even avoid drug tests. Until there is one governing body managing the issue in the sport of boxing is this problem only going to get worse.
A small list of well known boxers who failed drug tests
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez – April 2018 – Positive Tests For Clenbuterol
Tyson Fury – February 2015 – Positive Findings Of Nandrolone
Dillian Whyte – July 2019 – 2 Steroid Metabolites In System
Shannon Briggs – May 2017 – Boosted Testosterone Levels
James Toney – May 2005 – Nandrolone In Urine Sample
Roy Jones Jr – May 2000 – Anabolic Steroid Use
Conor Benn – October 2022 – Adverse Finding Of Fertility Drug
Luis Ortiz – September 2017 – Chlorothiazide and Hydrochlorothiazide
Jarrell Miller – May 2019 – Plethora Of Banned Substances