So-called performance-enhancing drugs have done nothing to improve times, distances or other results, according to research by the University of Adelaide, in Australia.
Researchers from the University’s School of Medical Sciences collated sporting records, including Olympic and world records, of male and female athletes across 26 sports, between 1886 and 2012 and compared them to pre-1932 records when steroids became available.
The findings were published in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.
“This research looked at 26 of the most controlled and some of the most popular sports, including various track and field events like 100m sprints, hurdles, high jump, long jump and shot-put, as well as some winter sports like speed skating and ski jumping,” said says Dr Aaron Hermann, lead author on the paper.
“The average best life records for ‘doped’ top athletes did not differ significantly from those considered not to have doped. Even assuming that not all cases of doping were discovered during this time, the practice of doping did not improve sporting results as commonly believed,” he says.
The 2000 Olympics gold medal result for the women’s 100-metre sprint was even poorer than the gold medal obtained in the 1968 Olympics, the first year of doping testing in the Olympics, Hermann says.
“This research demonstrates that doping practices are not improving results and in fact, may be harming them.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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