The use of diuretics in sport is banned by many competitive sporting associations, since the use of diuretics provides certain individuals with an unfair competitive advantage. Some athletes take diuretics to quickly shed water weight, providing an advantage in sports where the weight of a competitor is used to determine what class he will compete in. Other athletes have been known to take diuretics to mask the presence of performance-enhancing drugs in their urine, in an attempt to beat a urinalysis they must take before a competition. Different classes of diuretics have different strengths and side-effects, such as purging the body of various minerals.
Taking diuretics increases the flow of urine in the body by decreasing how much water the body retains. Because of the increased urination experienced by a person taking diuretics, a person may suffer from dehydration. Medical patients with hypertension, kidney or liver disease may take prescription diuretics under the direction of a doctor to treat their medical conditions. Using diuretics in sport, however, can be used to give an athlete an unfair advantage over the competition.
Because they increase urination, some athletes use diuretics in sports to help them shed weight quickly. The increased urination caused by diuretic use can measure almost 1.6 gallons (about six liters), worth of urine shed by an athlete in a 24 hour period. Using diuretics in sport gives an unfair advantage over competitors, if an athlete is put into a weight category for competition, such as in boxing or wrestling. Urinating at high volumes helps an athlete reduce his water weight quickly, which some athletes use before a weigh-in when qualifying for a sporting competition.
Some athletes may use diuretics in sport as a masking agent, which covers up doping or an athlete’s use of performance-enhancing drugs. Many sporting associations randomly test athletes’ urine for the presence of illegal drugs, such as steroids. Diuretics help to flush out the traces of a performance-enhancing drug in a person’s urine before testing. Because of the known abuse of diuretics in sport, organizations may test athletes’ urine for the presence of diuretics as a way to catch doping.
Not all diuretics work to the same degree, with diuretics being divided into different classes. With most diuretics, taking them without a medical need can result in dehydration and a potassium deficiency, since diuretics often rob the body of potassium and other electrolytes, leading to muscle cramping. Diuretics may also cause athletes to suffer from fatigue, hypotension or low blood pressure and seizures.