Doping is a common problem in sports, and one that is often associated with significant controversy when uncovered. Unfortunately, this doesn’t prevent athletes from doping, especially as many see it as a required part of their profession. A recent study by researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia has found that doping has almost no positive effect on athletic performance, making doping an even worse idea than it already is.

Researchers compared sporting records, including Olympic and world records, across 26 sports between 1886 and 2012. They compared records from before 1932, when steroids became available, and after, and found no significant difference between the two eras. For example, the gold medal record for the women’s 100-meter sprint in 2000 was actually worse than the record in 1968, the first year that Olympic athletes had to be tested for steroids.

Although these numbers should have both come from athletes who didn’t use steroids, the study points out that doping is likely far more widespread than expected. First, there is the pressure to dope in order to meet certain performance requirements in sports, driving athletes to seek out new ways to dope and keep it hidden. But more so is the fact that doping tests can be accurate as little as 4% of the time, meaning that many athletes could be doping, or have doped, and never been caught.

Dr. Aaron Herman, who was the lead author on the paper, thinks that these findings are incredibly important. He hopes that the takeaway, that doping has little if any real effect on athletic performance, will convince people not to use steroids for this purpose. This message is especially important for younger athletes. The potential downsides of doping, he points out, can never be outweighed by the benefits. Hopefully this message will get out there, because there is a very strong social trend towards doping, or the use of a variety of “supplements” of questionable value, as seen in the ads on almost every webpage on the Internet.

Featured image: Dave Campbell via Flickr CC.