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Doping is on their faces - how to recognize an Olympic weightlifter who took anabolic steroids?

Summary of an observational study looking at what is the difference in facial proportions between Olympic weightlifting athletes who took anabolic steroids and the athletes who didn’t.

Who

71 Olympic weightlifting athletes (females 27, males 44) at the international level who were sanctioned between 2004 and 2017 by the International Weightlifting Federation (World). 89% (63 athletes) sanctioned for the use of anabolic steroids, 1 female and 7 male weightlifters sanctioned due to other rules violations.

71 control athletes were randomly drawn from the 2017 World Championships (Anaheim, California) and from the top ten athletes from the Olympic Games 2016. If the athlete had a history of being ever sanctioned, they were excluded.

Design

Observational case-control study. Each sanctioned athlete had the control athlete matched from the same weight class.

Outcome measures

  • facial width-to-height ratio via forward-facing images

facial width-to-height ratioratio between the width (the horizontal distance between the left and right zygions - outer points on zygomatic arches) and height (the vertical distance between the highest point of the upper lip and the highest point of the eyelids).

Main results

Doping is on their faces - how to recognize an Olympic weightlifter who took anabolic steroids? Infographic

  • Athletes who were sanctioned due to the use of anabolic steroids also had higher facial width-to-height ratio than non-doping sanctioned athletes:
    Athletes' group
    Athletes sanctioned due to the use of anabolic steroids
    Athletes sanctioned due other violations
    Non-sanctioned athletes
    Facial width-to-height ratio
    Athletes' group
    Athletes sanctioned due to the use of anabolic steroids
    2.06±0.18
    Athletes sanctioned due other violations
    2.10±0.14
    Non-sanctioned athletes
    1.99±0.16
  • there was no difference between females and males

Take home message

For a clinician & coach
Athletes who were sanctioned due to the use of anabolic steroids had a higher facial width-to-height ratio than non-sanctioned athletes.
For a parent
Athletes who were sanctioned due to the use of anabolic steroids had a higher facial width-to-height ratio than non-sanctioned athletes.
For an athlete
Athletes who were sanctioned due to the use of anabolic steroids had wider faces.

Original article

Krenn B, Buehler C. Facial features and unethical behavior–Doped athletes show higher facial width-to-height ratios than non-doping sanctioned athletes. PloS one. 2019 Oct 30;14(10):e0224472.

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