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In low doses, the main side effects in the
early stages of GH use can be fluid retention
and sore muscles. There’s also the risk that if
a cancer is present, it will stimulate the growth.
If taken in excessive doses it can cause
acromegaly – enlargement of the head, feet
and hands – and can send people deaf. It can
also lead to enlargement of the heart and
kidneys, hypoglycaemia and diabetes.
“There are a couple of phar macies supplying
it illegally and there are also counterfeit drugs
illegally brought into the country, and people
don’t really know what they’re getting,” says Dr
Xaftellis. “Certainly if it’s being sold as pills or
cream, it’s not HGH. HGH can only be injected.”
All the talk used to be of PEDs (perfor mance-
enhancing drugs) such as anabolic steroids, which
first hit the sporting world in the 1930s and 40s
in the form of the super-human Soviet athletes
who were dominating the world athletics arena.
Today, we talk about PIEDs (performance-
and image-enhancing drugs). Steroids remain
the most widely used but there’s also the next
generation of PIEDs, known collectively as
peptides and hormones, which may provide
effects similar to anabolic steroids, but are
very difficult to detect because they are rapidly
metabolised. As the name suggests, they’re not
just being used for sport. An increasing number
of people are using drugs for image improvement
to lose fat, build muscle and, as in the case
of HGH, to look and feel younger.
And then there are the seemingly innocent
sports supplements. “Many people think drugs
are bad and dangerous but supplements are
OK,” says Mark Brown, sports physiotherapist
and Sports Medicine Australia (SMA) Queensland
Branch executive officer. “But this is probably
wishful thinking and ignorance.”
Many supplements are OK, but some
also contain substances banned by the World
Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and can have
negative health impacts. This is particularly
a problem when products are purchased online
from the endless list of worldwide suppliers
that are so easy to access.
An Australian Crime Commission Report
published last year describes the PIEDs market
in Australia as large and diverse, with a wide
range of substances being used by a broad
cross-section of the community.
“PIEDs previously considered to only be
available to elite athletes and used in sophisticated
sports doping programs, due to the expense
and complexity of their administration, are
now widely available,” says the report.
“A highly profitable and organised market
has been established around sourcing and
supply of new generation PIEDs.”
Whether we’re talking about PIEDs or sports
supplements – and there doesn’t seem to be
a solid line between the two – it’s all on the rise.
It’s unclear exactly how many Australians
use PIEDs. Detections by Customs at the
Australian border were 2696 in 2009/10,
and by 2012/13 had increased to 10,358.
Over recent months there have been various
reports of needle exchange programs around
the country being overwhelmed by users of
steroids and other PIEDs.
Some of this rush on PIEDs has been
put down to the Essendon Football Club’s
drug and supplement saga of 2013. Reports
that Essendon players were being injected with
peptides were described by experts as one of
the best public relations success stories for
PIEDs around – better than a multi-million
dollar marketing campaign.
As for supplements, sales figures show
it’s an increasing trend, and simply walking through
an average shopping centre shows the market
is clearly growing, even before you consider the
big warehouse-style suppliers that can be totally
overwhelming: there are supplements for
pre-workouts, intra-workouts, post-workouts, so
many different brands, products, flavours...
Supplement Mart, for example, sells about
60 different brands and up to 1000 product
lines, not including different flavours. Marketing
manager Mohammed Patel says 10 years ago it
“Most people would pick me for mid 40s,
but I’m 62. I look younger, fitter, leaner, I’m
not going grey on the chest and I certainly
don’t have the wrinkles of a 60-year-old.
I’ve still got the body of a younger man.”
78 S COOP AUTUMN 2014
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