Illicit drugs and cardiac arrhythmias in athletes

Francesco Furlanello, Laura Vitali Serdoz, Riccardo Cappato, Luigi De Ambroggi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current management of athletes with cardiac arrhythmias has become complicated by the widespread use of illicit drugs, which can be arrhythmogenic.The World Anti-Doping Agency annually updates a list of prohibited substances and methods banned by the International Olympic Committee that includes different classes of substances namely, anabolic androgenic steroids, hormones and related substances, β2-agonists, diuretics, stimulants, narcotics, cannabinoids, glucocorticosteroids, alcohol, β-blockers and others. Almost all illicit drugs may cause, through a direct or indirect arrhythmogenic effect, a wide range of cardiac arrhythmias (focal or reentry type, supraventricular and/or ventricular) that can even be lethal and which are frequently sport activity related.A large use of illicit drugs has been documented in competitive athletes, but the arrhythmogenic effect of specific substances is not precisely known. Precipitation of cardiac arrhythmias, particularly in the presence of a latent electrophysiologic substrate including some inherited cardiomyopathies, at risk of sudden death or due to long-term consumption of the substances, should raise the suspicion that illicit drugs may be a possible cause and lead cardiologists to investigate carefully this relationship and appropriately prevent the clinical consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-494
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


  • Arrhythmias
  • Athletes
  • Doping
  • Illicit drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Rehabilitation


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