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Ergogenic Aids

With better dope testing methods and hence the possibilities of detection and life ban from the sport, athletes and coaches are looking for legal ways to improve performance and/or hasten recovery. The various ways by which performance can be improved are known as Ergogenic Aids.

Ergogenic Aids may:

  • directly influence the physiological capacity of a particular body system thereby improving performance
  • remove psychological constraints which impact performance
  • increase the speed of recovery from training and competition


Ergogenic aids fall into the following categories:

  • Mechanical Aids
    • Altitude Training
    • Aqua (water) Training
    • Heart Rate Monitors
    • Computers - analyse VO2 max, technique, test results etc.
    • Video recorders - analyse technique
    • Tyre towing - develop strength
    • Weights - develop strength
    • Hypoxic Tents - altitude training
    • Nasal Strips
    • Parachutes - develop strength
    • Elastic cord (pulling)- develop speed
    • Elastic cord (restraining) - develop strength
    • Downhill running (3° to 5° slope) - develop speed
    • Uphill running (5° to 10° slope) - develop strength
    • Treadmills
    • Weighted vests (5% to 8% of body weight) - develop strength
    • Compression garments - limited research exists on the ergogenic qualities for sports-specific exercise, with available research showing mixed results for exercise involving repeated powerful efforts
    • Sports clothing, footwear and equipment
    • Timing equipment
    • Vibration Training


The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) produces the World Anti-Doping Code which governs all aspects of anti-doping practice. The Code provides five international standards on:

  • Testing
  • Protection of Privacy and Personal Information
  • Laboratories
  • Therapeutic Use Exemption
  • The Prohibited List.

Prohibited List

The Prohibited List is published on the 1st October and becomes effective from the 1st January.

Some substances are banned in competition only, others are banned at all times and some may be banned in specific sports.

Strict Liability

The Athlete is solely responsible for any prohibited substance found in their body.


Medication purchased or prescribed by a doctor in Canada, Japan, UK or USA can be checked against the Prohibited List on the Global Drug Reference Online website

If you are taking medication prescribed by your doctor which is on the prohibited list and there is no alternative treatment then contact your sport's national governing body with regards of how to apply for Therapeutic Use Exemption.


There is no guarantee that a supplement, including energy drinks, are 100% free of a prohibited item(s), Informed Sport may help in reducing the risk of using such a supplement.

Who does it apply to and when?

All athletes, beginner to elite, registered with their sport's governing body could be tested at anytime with no limitation on the number of test in a given period.

Testing Procedure

The British Athletics website provides a video of an athlete (Lynsey Sharp) experiencing a Doping Control Test.

Mobile App

"Clean Sport" which provides up to date anti-doping advice is a free application available in both iOS and Android versions.

Additional sources of information

Cautionary Notes

  • The WADA list of prohibited substances is based on Doping Classes and Doping Methods, not all substances belonging to the class are listed. Do not assume that because a substance is not listed it is not prohibited. Lists of prohibited substances are periodically revised. Always check with the medical officer of the sport or the Sports Council if you are in doubt. Athletes, this is your responsibility.
  • Different sporting organizations may ban different drugs. It is advisable to check with the relevant governing body. Medical officers should also liaise closely with their governing body regarding the relevant prohibited classes.
  • Prohibited substances are not only contained in medicines that may be prescribed by doctors. They may be found in over the counter preparations. A family doctor or local pharmacist may not be fully aware of the restrictions on medications. Always check medications with the governing body medical officer or with the Sports Council.
  • Do not use medications from overseas unless they have been cleared with the governing body medical officer. Do not rely on brand names of medications available overseas. A permitted brand name in the United Kingdom may contain a prohibited substance in its overseas version.
  • Some so-called 'vitamin' preparations and nutritional supplements may contain prohibited substances. Beware vitamin preparations which can be purchased here or overseas. There is no legal requirement for manufacturers to list all the contents of food supplements. Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether they would contravene the doping regulations as all ingredients may not be indicated, and indeed may vary from batch to batch.

If you are not sure, do not take it.

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • STRAUSS, R. H. (1984) Ergogenic Aids in Sports. JAMA, 252 (4), p. 555-555
  • COLEMAN, E. (1998) Ergogenic Aids for Athletes. Clinical Nutrition Insight, 24 (7), p. 1-4
  • SILVER, M. D. (2001) Use of ergogenic aids by athletes. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 9 (1), p. 61-70

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2001) Ergogenic Aids [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: