False energy

39 players out of 43 used performance enhancing substances

Albert Chigoga

The use of non-prohited Performance Enhancing Substance (PES) is high among elite football players as players from two Blantyre based Super League teams have been implicated, a study has revealed.

The study titled ‘Prevalence of Performance Enhancing Substance’ use among elite football players in two Super League teams in Blantyre, Malawi, was published on Malawi Medical Journal online on August 2, 2022.

It was conducted by the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (Kuhes) and consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa.


According to the study, the most used performance enhancing substances are caffeine, herbal products and energy bars.

Data was collected in March 2020.

The study says three Super League teams in Blantyre were selected to participate in the study but did not mention the clubs.


However, Blantyre has three Super League teams namely Nyasa Big Bullets, Mighty Mukuru Wanderers and Mighty Wakawaka Tigers whereas Ntopwa were relegated last season.

During the study, the researchers used modified standard questionnaire from World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and data was analysed using descriptive statistics and Chi-square test.

Details indicate that a total of 86 football players were eligible to participate in the study.

However, only two teams with a total of 56 players accepted to participate. Out of 56 players, 13 players were excluded of which 12 players were on holiday and one player denied consent to participate.

Out of the 43 players, 39 players representing 91 percent had been using performance enhancing substances while only four players (nine percent) had never used the PES.

“Out of 13 substances, Caffeine (77 percent), herbal products (40%) and energy bars (40 percent), were the commonly used PESs while Cocaine (2 percent) was the least used substance among the players. Improving performance was the most reason (81 percent) why participants were using PESs followed by increase in lean body mass (35 percent),” reads part of the study.

The study also discovered that many players (60 percent) had secondary education as their highest level of education and most players (86 percent) had played football for more than five years.

Malawi Anti-Doping Organisation (Mado) Chairperson James Mwenda said it was a wakeup call.

“In light of this, Mado will seriously start education program as well as doping tests because we are mindful that other athletes do not know the substances that are banned, so it is our responsibility to intensify educational programmes through Mado Education Commission,” Mwenda said.

In conclusion, the study says the players mainly used PESs for improved performance in football. It says there is a need for awareness among the elite football athletes and stakeholders on adverse health effects of the PESs.

On his part, Bullets Chief Administration Officer, Albert Chigoga claimed his side did not participate in the study.

“I am not aware of the results of the research,” Chigoga said.

According to the study, use of PESs is common among athletes worldwide with the prevalence ranging from five to 31 percent.

Wanderers Board Secretary Humphreys Mvula also claimed that he had no information if the team’s players participated in the study.

“We do not promote the use of banned substances. Although we do not have scientific methods of detecting the use of such substances, we have code of conduct for our players,” Mvula said.

Sports analyst George Kaudza Masina said it was high time clubs started taking doping in sports as a serious issue.

“It is true that some players use banned substances unknowingly. Use of banned substances shorten players’ career,” Masina said.

Doping is a serious issue in football. Players who are found using performance enhancing substances are banned from active football.

The punishments vary depending on the seriousness of the case.

Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana was once banned for a period of nine months for a positive doping test.

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