The Prohibited List issued by WADA organizes prohibited substances into different classes. The modules below from Antidoping Switzerland's mobile lesson provide valuable information about each substance class (definition, effects, side-effects, sports affected, videos and test questions) as well as about the analysis of doping controls.
Substances prohibited at all times (in and out of competition)
Side effects: Anabolic agents have a range of side effects, some of them dangerous, such as damage to the cardiovascular system, liver disease or even liver cancer, changes to the lipid metabolism leading to hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), water retention in body tissue, mental health problems (depression, aggression, libido, substance dependence), premature skeletal maturation in children or effects on the reproductive system.
Side effects: An increase the production of red blood cells caused by EPO results in an increase in the packed cell volume of the blood (haematocrit). The blood becomes more viscous and blood pressure rises. Especially when the athlete is dehydrated, after a period of exertion this thickening of the blood can lead to thrombosis, heart attacks, stroke and even death. The risk of developing cancer also rises when EPO is taken.
Side effects: hGH can promote the growth of inner organs (e.g. heart, liver) and cause considerable damage to them. An enlarged heart and increased blood pressure can cause heart attacks. hGH also leads to the disproportionate growth of hands and feet, and also of the chin, nose and ears (acromegaly). These changes are irreversible. Further possible consequences of hGH abuse are intestinal cancer or diabetes.
Side effects: Excessive sweating, restlessness, uncontrollable muscle twitching (tremors) and rapid heartbeat (tachycardia). Due to an increase in oxygen consumption as the result of a rapid heartbeat, there may be an insufficient supply of oxygen to the cells of the heart muscle, resulting in angina pectoris (paroxysmal pain in the chest induced by a circulatory disorder of the heart). Other possible side effects are a reduction in the potassium concentration in the blood serum (possible result: cardiac arrhythmia) or an increase in glucose levels due to a more rapid breakdown of glycogen in the liver.
Side effects: hormones and metabolic modulators interfere with the body’s endocrine system and thus enhance the risk of serious diseases.
Side effects: Insulin-doping can be fatal! An overdose of artificial insulin leads to heart palpitations, agitation and tremors. If blood sugar levels fall rapidly and the nervous system is therefore no longer supplied with enough energy, serious damage can occur to the brain. In extreme cases this can result in death. In addition, the abuse of insulin carries the risk of developing diabetes.
Side effects: Diuretics deprive the body of large amounts of liquids and minerals, thereby disrupting its water and salt balance. This can lead to serious muscle cramps, acute hypotension, cardiac arrhythmia and circulatory shock. Moreover, the risk of thrombosis increases as the blood thickens. Other possible side effects of the abuse of diuretics are gastrointestinal problems and kidney damage.
Substances prohibited in-competition
Stimulants cause increased physical and mental activity. They suppress the sensation of fatigue and thus increase performance. The group of stimulants also includes illegal drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy.
Side effects: Stimulants put pressure on the cardiovascular system in particular. Blood pressure and body temperature rise due to a narrowing of the blood vessels. This is life-threatening and can cause cardiac arrest. Other possible side effects include cardiac arrhythmia, convulsions and circulatory collapse. These side-effects may lead to life-threatening respiratory paralysis in particular when doing sport.
Side effects: The use of narcotics is associated with a high risk of addiction and leads to severe physical and psychological dependence. Narcotics act primarily on the central nervous system, thereby impairing concentration and coordination skills. Overdose may lead to fatal respiratory paralysis.
Side effects: Cannabinoids act primarily on the brain and can trigger a variety of side effects. In the short term, they lead to a drop in physical performance and also affect perception and short-term memory. In high doses they can cause psychotic seizures, restlessness, anxiety, panic and confusion.
Side effects: Glucocorticoids affect different areas of the body, so they also have numerous potential side effects such as inhibiting the production of endogenous glucocorticoids via the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, an effect known as «negative feedback»; the suppression of the immune system; or the catabolic effect which leads to a decrease in bone density (osteoporosis) and muscle wasting.
Substances prohibited in particular sports
Side effects: Alcohol abuse impairs thinking processes and creates a feeling of disorientation, as well as a lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements (ataxia). In addition, there is a danger of death due to respiratory paralysis, inhalation of vomit or hypothermia. In a person with an alcohol addiction, regular intake damages all of the body’s cells. The nervous system and the liver suffer in particular. Over 1,600 people die each year in Switzerland as the result of alcohol consumption.
Beta-blockers inhibit the effect of the body's stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. As a result, they have a relaxing effect on the heart and blood circulation and prevent anxiety and muscle trembling.
Side effects: Beta blockers have an inhibitory effect on the sympathetic nervous system (part of the autonomic nervous system, which prepares the body for performance). The reduction in heart rate can cause a cardiac insufficiency in extreme cases. Other possible side effects include asthma attacks, erectile dysfunction, fatigue and a depressed mood.
Both in and out of competition, athletes are required to provide urine and/or blood samples. These samples are tested for prohibited substances in special anti-doping laboratories using a variety of analytical methods.