When a professional athlete is found – or, in some cases, admits – to using an illegal substance, the media flocks to the news and commotion ensues in the sporting world. In fact, even rumours of high-profile players using artificial performance-enhancing methods can start controversies. But what are these techniques, and why are they banned exactly?

Blood Doping

Blood doping is medically used only during emergencies when there’s no enough time for cross-matching and determining the patient’s blood type for transfusion. When used by athletes, it increases the number of their red blood cells and enhances their performances. This is done by removing about 2 pints of the player’s blood and freezing it. Then, it will be thawed and transfused back to the player a day or two before the competition.

Gene Doping

There’s a lot of prestige and money involved in the sports industry, which is why some people have developed novel techniques to improve players’ performance, such as gene doping. While gene doping is originally used to treat naturally-occurring genetic problems, it has been used on some athletes to alter their genes and artificially improve their bodies. Depending on the type of gene used, this method can make a person stronger, faster or increase their stamina.

Caffeine

Not all substances banned in sporting events are considered illegal drugs. Case in point: caffeine, the very same substance found in our coffee. The reason caffeine is prohibited in professional sports is that this substance, which is technically a drug, can improve muscle contractibility, reduce fatigue, improve concentration and enhance alertness. However, caffeine could also have harmful effects on some performance, like motor technique and control due to over stimulation.