Doping and thrombosis in sports

Giuseppe Lippi, Giuseppe Banfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Historically, humans have long sought to enhance their athletic performance to increase body weight, aggressiveness, mental concentration and physical strength, contextually reducing fatigue, pain, and improving recovery. Although regular training is the mainstay for achieving these targets, the ancillary use of ergogenic aids has become commonplace in all sports. The demarcation between ergogenic aids and doping substances or practices is continuously challenging and mostly based on perceptions regarding the corruption of the fairness of competition and the potential side effects or adverse events arising from the use of otherwise unnecessary ergogenic substances. A kaleidoscope of side effects has been associated with the use of doping agents, including behavioral, skeletal, endocrinologic, metabolic, hemodynamic, and cardiovascular imbalances. Among the various doping substances, the most striking association with thrombotic complications has been reported for androgenic anabolic steroids (i.e., cardiomyopathy, fatal and nonfatal arrhythmias, myocardial infarction [MI], intracardiac thrombosis, stroke, venous thromboembolism [VTE], limb arterial thrombosis, branch retinal vein occlusion, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis) and blood boosting (i.e., VTE and MI, especially for epoetin and analogs). The potential thrombotic complication arising from misuse of other doping agents such as the administration of cortisol, growth hormone, prolactin, cocaine, and platelet-derived preparations is instead speculative or anecdotal at best. The present article provides an overview on the epidemiological association as well as the underlying biochemical and biological mechanisms linking the practice of doping in sports with the development of thrombosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-928
Number of pages11
JournalSeminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • androgenic anabolic steroids
  • Doping
  • erythropoietin
  • sports

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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