Athletes commonly use drugs and dietary supplements to improve athletic performance or to assist with weight loss. Some of these substances are obtainable by prescription or by illegal means; others are marketed as supplements, vitamins, or minerals. Nutritional supplements are protected from Food and Drug Administration regulation by the 1994 US Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, and manufacturers are not required to demonstrate proof of efficacy or safety. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration lacks a regulatory body to evaluate such products for purity. Existing scientific data, which consist of case reports and clinical observations, describe serious cardiovascular adverse effects from use of performance-enhancing substances, including sudden death. Although mourning evidence led to the recent tan of ephedra (ma huang), other performance-enhancing substances continue to te used frequently at all levels, from elementary school children to professional athletes. Thus, although the potential for cardiovascular injury is great, few appropriately designed studies have been conducted to assess the benefits and risks of using performance-enhancing substances. We performed an exhaustive OVID MEDLINE search to identify all existing scientific data, review articles, case reports, and clinical observations that address this subject. In this review, we examine the current evidence regarding cardiovascular risk for persons using anabolic-androgenic steroids including 2 synthetic substances, tetrahydrogestrinone and androstenedione (andro), stimulants such as ephedra, and nonsteroidal agents such as recombinant human erythropoletin, human growth hormone, creatine, and β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate.
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