Paracetamol, ibuprofen and other painkillers help professional athletes perform better, sports scientists have claimed.
One in three elite athletes use the over-the-counter drugs to speed recovery, boost endurance and ease pain – despite fears long-term use could cause health risks.
Taking the pills could also mean athletes can train harder due to lower pain thresholds.
The Times reported a scientific review found drugs change brain structures which normally tell people they are exercising too hard.
Another survey found over 90 per cent of Italy’s professional footballers had taken anti-inflammatory painkillers including ibuprofen and aspirin.
And it has been reported over 20 per cent the athletes at the 2000 Sydney Olympics used the drugs, with 10 per cent taking them at the 2004 Athens Games.
Olympian Daniel Awde told the BBC athletes take ibuprofen ‘for breakfast, lunch and dinner’ and it is a ‘running joke’ among competitors.
Researchers at the University of Granada in Spain demonstrated small doses strengthen athletes, despite them usually taking the pills to manage injuries.
Darias Holgado, who was the lead author on the University of Granada research, said: ‘It could be that paracetamol might reduce the thermal stress experienced during exercise, and hence it may increase exercise capacity in hot conditions where body temperature plays an important role.
‘Paracetamol might also reduce the brain output required to recruit the locomotor muscles for a given exercise intensity, lowering the perception of effort and making exercise feel easier — or for allowing more muscle-force production for the same level of perceived exertion.’
He added: ‘Athletes, medical staff and doping authorities should bear in mind the common side-effects and health complications associated with prolonged or supertherapeutic doses.’
Another research paper revealed sprint tests showed the same amount of paracetamol increased runners’ average power output by five per cent.
Paracetamol was hailed as a wonder drug when it was introduced to Britain in 1956 but a lot is still unknown about its effects on the human body.