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We have heard over the years of pro MMA fighters accused of using or being caught using PEDs.

As with all sports that start having higher and higher pay incomes, the usage of performance enhancing drugs (PED) become increasingly common. In MMA they have become more and more predominant, and some pro fighters have failed in the testing of these drugs.

Using these drugs are to give an edge over your opponent, but can come with several health risks. Some are willing to gamble with these risks to get to the top.

I will be looking at  most commonly seen PEDs. These are:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Androstenedione
  • Human growth hormone
  • Erythropoeietin
  • Diuretics
  • Stimulants


Anabolic steroids


The main use for anabolic-androgen steroids, or roids is to increase ones muscle mass and strength. Testosterone is the main anabolic steroid hormone produced by one’s own body.

Testosterone has two main effects on one’s body:

  • The anabolic effect : promoting muscle building;
  • The androgenic effect: creating male traits, such as facial hair and a deeper voice.

A more alluring part of steroids for fighters is that they may aid them in recovering from a grueling workout more quickly by reducing the muscle damage that occurs during the training. This permits fighters to train harder and more frequently without overtraining, a real big benefit in the sport of MMA.

Anabolic steroids have recognized medical uses, but improving athletic performance is not considered one of them. Athletes frequently use anabolic steroids that are synthetic modifications of testosterone. They are illegally manufactured to be virtually undetectable by present drug testing. Considering that these drugs are made explicitly for athletes, with no medical use, this poses further health risks as they are not liable to any government safety standards, potentially being impure or mislabeled.

Several athletes take steroids at much higher doses than what is usually prescribed for medical reasons. Due to the fact that there is no real official research on the effects of high dosages of steroids, most of what is known about high dosage effects comes from observing actual users.

Physical side effects may arise with the use of anabolic steroids.

In men, these may arise:

  • Gynecomastia (enlarging breast) aka bitch tits(!)
  • Balding
  • Shrunken testicles
  • Infertility ( good thing for some!)
  • Prostate gland enlargement

In women, these may arise:

  • A deeper voice
  • An enlarged clitoris(!)
  • Increased body hair(!)
  • Balding
  • Infrequent or absent periods

Both men and women steroid users may develop:

  • Serious acne
  • Increased possibility of tendinitis and tendon ruptures
  • Liver disease
  • Increase in LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol)
  • Decrease in HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol)
  • Increased blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Heart and circulatory complications
  • Increase in aggressive behavior
  • Psychiatric disorders (e.g. depression)
  • Drug dependency
  • Infections or contractible diseases like HIV or hepatitis thru steroids being injected
  • Teenagers may experience inhibited growth and development




Human growth hormone (HGH)


Human growth hormone, also known as gonadotropin, is a hormone that has an anabolic effect. Athletes take it to enhance muscle mass and performance. Nonetheless, there is no irrefutable evidence that HGH improve one’s athletic performance.

The side effects of using HGH are potential:

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fluid retention
  • Vision problems
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Harmed glucose regulation
  • Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart)
  • Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol)
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)



Erythropoietin _EPO_ Powder_ InjectionErythro_1

Erythropoietin is a type of hormone used to treat anemia in those suffering severe kidney disease. What this hormone does it helps increase the creation of red blood cells and hemoglobin. This then causes a reaction in improved flow of oxygen to the muscles. The synthetic version of erythropoietin is Epoetin, commonly used to boost the endurance of athletes.

Improper use of this drug can boost the risk of thrombotic (blood clotting) circumstances, such as stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolism (artery blockage in the lungs).




Diuretics are drugs that shift one’s body’s natural balance of fluids and electrolytes (salts) and can potentially lead to dehydration. For MMA fighters they are used to help in competing in a lower weight division, by decreasing one’s water weight. Diuretics may aid to pass drug tests by diluting (“masking”) one’s urine.



These drugs have quite detrimental side effects:

  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Low potassium levels
  • Rash
  • Gout
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Coordination and balance deficiency
  • Death (!!)




Stimulant drugs are used by athletes to enhance endurance, reduce fatigue, suppress appetite, increase alertness and raise aggressiveness.

The most common stimulant drugs are caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine hydrochloride (found in cold medicines) and amphetamine.

The easily accessible energy drinks usually contain high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants (e.g. guarana, taurine). More dangerous and highly addictive drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine are stimulants and have been used by athletes.

Like all drugs, there are side effects:

  • Nervousness and irritability that may decrease concentration skills
  • Insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Heatstroke
  • Tolerance, making athletes needing higher dosages to get the effect.
  • Addiction

More serious side effects are:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Fast weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Mild hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Hallucinations
  • Stroke
  • Heart attacks


Most MMA events test for these drugs. Having lived in Japan , it was common knowledge that the Japanese MMA events, even now, do not test for these substances. Cost would be a reason, but the mentality is that it’s the fighters choice to take these drugs, knowing fully the health risks associated with them. This being said, these types of drugs are not as easy to purchase as in other parts of the world. Several Japanese fighters I know myself are not even big consumers of athletic supplements either.


Many people look at the short-term benefits of these drugs. This is especially in athletes who are looking for the win, and become the champion. The long-term health risks of these drugs should be thought out carefully. One may become champion, but in the end suffer bad health, causing suffering to oneself and those around you, and even death, the ultimate suffering.

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