Should performance enhancing drugs be allowed in professional sports? Some argue that drugs are dangerous, unfair, and against the spirit of sport! Others believe sport would be more exciting with PEDs and that it unfair to stop athletes from reaching their best performance. Let’s learn some new vocabulary and discuss sport and performance enhancing drugs in today’s episode!!


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Vocabulary List

To enhance (v) – to improve the quality, amount, or strength of something

The sauce enhances the flavour of the meat

Doping (n) – the act of giving a person or animal drugs in order to make them perform better or worse in a competiton

The anti-doping agency is committed to ending doping in sport

To test (v) – produce a specified result in a medical test, especially a drugs test

He tested positive of COVID-19 last week

Performance (n) – how well a person, machine, etc. does a piece of work or an activity

He was fired from his job for poor performance

Endurance (n) – the ability to keep doing something difficult, unpleasant, or painful for a long time

Running a marathon is a test of human endurance.

To cheat (v) – to behave in a dishonest way in order to get what you want

She cheated in the test by copying from the boy in front

Guinea Pig (n) – a person used in a scientific test, for example to discover the effect of a drug on humans

They are asking student to be guinea pigs in their research into the disease

Clean (adj) – played or done according to the rules

Despite testing positive for steroids, he maintains he is a clean athlete



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Drugs Cheating is a Major Problem in Elite Sport

Drugs cheating is a major issue in elite sport. Athletics, cycling, professional football, boxing, and many more sports have struggled with athletes using performance enhancing drugs to get an advantage over their opponents.

There have been many high-profile instances of doping. During the 1970s and ‘80s the East German government conducted an official, government approved, drug cheating programme with their elite athletes. Performance enhancing drugs (or PEDs) including steroids were used on a large scale to increase East German athletes’ chances of winning and show the superiority of communist societies.

And it was very successful, East Germany won 40 gold medals at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and during the 1980s some East German athletes set world records that were almost unbeatable. However, for the athletes themselves, the programme had major consequences. Around 9000 people were given PEDs, and many-faced issues in later life including infertility, heart disease, and cancer.

Use of PEDs was mainly seen as an issue in communist countries… until the 1988 Olympics. Ben Johnson, a Canadian sprinter, defeated the legendary Carl Lewis in the 100m sprint and set a new world record at the same time. After the race, he tested positive for the steroid stanozolol, and the gold medal was given to Lewis instead.  

Lance Armstrong was the most famous cyclist in the world. He was a cancer survivor, winner of seven Tour de France titles in a row, and founder of one of the most high-profile charities in the US. He had repeatedly denied using PEDs throughout his career, but in 2012 the US Anti-Doping Agency charged Armstrong with doping. He lost his titles, was banned from the sport, and was sued by his former sponsors for millions of dollars.

And in recent years, the entire country of Russia has been banned from the both the summer and winter Olympics due to state sponsored doping. The government supported initiative was revealed by workers at the Russian national anti-doping laboratory, who revealed that athletes were being provided with PEDs and that their urine samples were being replaced with clean samples.

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What is a Performance Enhancing Drug?

A Performance Enhancing Drug can be defined as a substance that is taken for the purpose of improving sports performance. Often, these drugs have medical uses and are also used in hospitals to treat sick or injured people. But when used on healthy people, and in larger amounts, than can have the effect of improving a person’s performance.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most famous types of PED.

Hormones (like Human Growth Hormone)

Hormones naturally occur in our bodies. They are basically messengers sending signals across our body – and delivering these messages to the muscles and organs that perform functions. They can affect your mood, growth, blood pressure, and much more.

Athletes can add extra hormones to their body to increase certain functions. For example, to increase muscle growth, size, and defintion.

Anabolic Steroids

Steroids are drugs that copy testosterone (a hormone) and encourage muscle growth. In medicine, they are used to treat illnesses like asthma or muscle loss.

Athletes use anabolic steroids to increase their endurance (so they can compete or train for longer), to lose fat, to improve their recovery times, and to increase their size and strength!


Stimulants are drugs which excite your brain and nerves – they stimulate you. People with allergies, asthma, or ADHD may be given stimulants to help improve their conditions.

For athletes, stimulants can make them more aggressive, more alert, more competitive, and less tired.

Blood doping

Blood doping is one of the crazier cheating methods. It is a way to enhance the amount of oxygen in your blood to make it easier for you to keep competing. Blood doping improves endurance and makes it easier to compete in mountain environments.

And it can be achieved by injecting the hormone EPO. It is also done through blood transfusions (adding blood with extra oxygen into the body). Or by injecting other chemicals.

Other types of PED

These were just some of the more famous types of doping – but there are lots of other types. Narcotics, diuretics, cannabinoids, beta-blockers, corticosteroids, and more. But why do athletes use these banned substances?


Why do Athletes Use Performance Enhancing Drugs?

While drug testing has become incredibly accurate, and the punishments for athletes caught doping often harsh, this has not stopped sportsmen and women across the world from using Performance Enhancing Drugs (or PEDs).

The reasons why athletes use PEDs can be quite simple – to improve their chances of winning. Depending on the type of PEDs used, doping can make athletes stronger, more alert, faster, have more endurance, or recover quicker.

PEDs can help wrestlers or boxers reduce their weight before fights; it can help cyclists improve their endurance; it can increase the strength of weightlifters; and improve the speed of sprinters. When you are at the top of your sport, already eating and training at highest level, the slight improvements PEDs provide can be the difference between a gold and silver Olympic medal.

Moreover, if used safely and correctly, many supporters of using drugs in sport question why they are not allowed. Athletes can already take legal supplements like vitamins and protein powder. They can use incredibly advanced technology in their shoes to get advantages. And, in some sports, rich countries and teams can buy the best equipment: bicycles are a great example. All of these things are a legal form of advantage… so why are PEDs banned?

But at the same time, many people are opposed to the idea of PEDs – they are seen as unfair and a form of cheating. And they can be dangerous, perhaps even deadly, with long term consequences for athletes’ health.

Today, I want to look at a few arguments about the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in sport. Should they be accepted? Or should they be illegal? I want you to listen to my arguments and decide for yourself! I want you to think about this issue in English!!

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Should Performance Enhancing Drugs be Allowed in Sports?

No – PEDs shouldn’t be allowed in sport!

Let’s start with the arguments against the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport.

Probably the most common and convincing argument against the use of drugs in sport is that they are potentially dangerous. The purpose of these drugs is to alter the human body and change the normal bodily functions.

In medicine, these drugs are used under careful supervision to cure illnesses and repair damage to the body. In sport, these drugs are used with the intention to improve sporting performance. But some of the drugs can be dangerous, have serious side effects, and be potentially deadly.

Here are some of the side effects of anabolic steroids – one of the best know PEDs. High blood pressure, blood clots, strokes, enlarged breasts in men, testicular cancer, voice deepening in women, aggression, and much more.

Performance enhancing drugs are used in a way they were not designed and for this reason there is an increased risk of side effects and unintended consequences. I mentioned earlier about the East German state sponsored doping programme – many of the athletes who took hormones and steroids have suffered from serious long-term issues.

Allowing the use of drugs in sport could also turn athletes into “human guinea pigs” – doctors and trainers will be experimenting with untested and unproven drugs and combinations of drugs to find the best combination. And to increase the advantage, athletes will naturally begin to take larger and larger quantities of drugs. I’m sure the risks of this are clear to everyone.

Moreover, legalising and allowing performance enhancing drugs will force clean athletes who don’t want to take PEDs, to take them. In a world with PEDs available to everyone, clean athletes have to make a choice. They can stay clean and not PEDs but know that their competitors could be taking them and have an advantage. Or they can take PEDs as well. It is not fair to force athletes into a situation where they need to take PEDs.

And finally, sport is not just about winning and losing – it should also be about integrity, fairness, friendship, hard work, determination, commitment, and much more. PEDs challenge these ideas!


Yes – PEDs should be allowed in sport!

Now, let’s take a look at some of the arguments for allowing the use of PEDs in sport.

While it is true that some PEDs can be dangerous, this is not true for every single drug currently banned. For example, EPO – a drug used to increase the oxygen level in blood – has been studied extensively and there is little evidence of long-term health consequences. If PEDs are banned due to their negative health effects, it seems unfair to ban EPO for this reason.

Safety can also be improved if PEDs are allowed. This is an argument often used by people campaigning for recreational drug decriminalisation and legalisation. Basically, if you stop considering drugs as illegal and the users of drugs as criminals, it is possible to increase the safety and regulation of drugs.

Rather than buying PEDs from people at the gym and working out their own dosages, allowing PEDs would mean the doctors and scientists could officially be involved in monitoring the health of athletes. And as some athletes are always going to try and find an advantage, perhaps banning PEDs will never be effective.

Moreover, why should adults be told what they can and can’t do to their bodies? If they are making an informed decision, with medical oversight, what right do we have to stop them? Sports are not safe – there are injuries every day. We have no problem with fighters hitting each other in the face, or sprinters pushing their legs to the limit, or weightlifters holding things above their heads. We trust athletes to make these choices – so shouldn’t we trust them with other decisions about their bodies?

Think about this. You are a sprinter from a rich country like the USA. You are funded by the government, so your full-time job is sprinting. You have a team of the best trainers in the world using the most up to date methods to train you. You work with a nutritionist, so you eat the perfect food to get prepared. You have sports scientists and sports psychologists who make sure your mind and body are in perfect condition.

You have access to the best facilities: a well-equipped gym, recovery things like ice baths, physiotherapists. You are given vitamins and supplements. You have the most advanced sneakers and training equipment. You sleep in a special tent to increase oxygen in your blood.

On the other hand, you are a sprinter from a poorer country with no national athletics programme. You have to work other jobs, you have no training team to help prepare you, you can’t afford the expensive food and vitamins, and you train in a normal gym. But you do have access to a cheap and easily available PED.

In a scenario like this, are PEDs really the unfair advantage? Or is coming from a rich country the unfair advantage? Why is the UK cycling team the most successful in recent Olympics? Is it because the UK has the best athletes? Or is it because they have the most money? I would guess it is a money thing!

And finally, professional sport is about entertainment… and PEDs can make sport more entertaining. With bigger, faster, stronger athletes reaching the highest levels of human achievement. The women’s 400m world record has been held by Martina Koch since 1985 and the 800 meters world record held by Jarmila Kratochvilova since 1983 – these two world records were so far beyond anyone else in the sport at the time or since. And there have been suggestions (never proven) that they were taking drugs.

PEDs may make sport more entertaining – and that is the purpose of modern sport, right?

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Final Thought

Today, I wanted to talk about a controversial debate – the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sport!

On the one hand, opponents of allowing PEDs argue they are dangerous, untested, will turn athletes into experiments, and go against the spirit of sport. On the other hand, supporters of allowing some PEDs in sport believe allowing them will make it safer, fairer, and more entertaining.

But what do you think?

Should performance enhancing drugs be allowed in professional sport? Do you think PEDs should be completely banned? What do you think is the best approach?

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

3 thoughts on “184. Should Performance Enhancing Drugs Be Banned in Sports? (English Vocabulary Lesson)”
  1. Hi
    I believe you do amazing work You were able to convey these information about PEDs very succinctly.
    On the other hand what ‘ s my opinion that is PEDs makes sports unfair ,it doesn’t make for a level playing field. Also in terms of healthy, in my mind it ‘s self- destructive behaviour specially bcz of synthetic substances in them. This is my short point of view
    Thanks for your efforts .You ‘ve such clear and pleasant to hearing voice😇😇🤗

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