Use of Steroids in Sports

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When athletes compete for excellence in sports, the use
of steroids or other supplements often times may be a cause
for disqualification in a sports event. Many athletes
today subscribe to the idea that steroids should be allowed
in sports competition. They admit that steroid and
supplement use enhances natural athletic ability and
endurance and, thus, promotes athletes to perform better in
competition. These same athletes are convinced that
doctors and the government advance the “side effect”
argument mostly as a scare tactic to preserve the “purity
of athletic competition. Is there enough research to
support the dramatic effects of steroids on sports
performance and the side effects that could ultimately lead
to a death sentence?

Congress classifies anabolic steroids as controlled
substances and report health risks as deadly to justify
basis for legislation. Today, athletes using anabolic
steroids have a more sophisticated pharmacological knowledge
base for using steroids that they believe surpasses that of
the vast majority of physicians. Therefore, there is a
continual debate on whether athletes should be allowed to
take steroids to enhance performance or endurance or
appearance.

Steroids are chemicals that act like hormones. These
hormones are normally in your body and regulate bodily
functions. Anabolic steroids are used by abusers to build
muscle mass or prolong intense training. There are
chemically engineered versions of testosterone. In other
words, these use of these anabolic steroids could possibly
tamper with the natural maturation of males in the growth of
tests and penis, increased sexual drive, more body hair, and
a deeper voice. However, the use of these anabolic steroids
also distinguishes the more muscular physiques in males
versus females. (Kowalski, 44-45)

Many nutrition experts and sports medicine physicians
argue that much too little is known about the steroids being
advertised and sold today. There is an ongoing concern
about the long term effects of steroid use. The Federal
Trade Commission, which helps protect consumers against
unfair or deceptive business practices continually urges
manufacturers to disclose the possible risks of taking
steroid hormones and stimulants. These typically include
steroids like androstenedione and stimulants like ephedra.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission requests labels on
products containing these body boosters to warn of unwanted
changes in male and female sexual characteristics and
special dangers to persons at increased risk for prostate
and breast cancer. The FTC also says that most companies
are unable to substantiate their claims of safety or the
lack of side effects. (Funk, 21-22). Furthermore, there is
a concern among nutrition experts that athletes may think
that if a little is good, then a lot is better.

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When
products contain ephedra or caffeine, then these stimulants
can ultimately lead to heart attacks, seizures, stroke, or
even death. Can most athletes personally determine the
amount of steroids or supplement use they can safely consume
to enhance athletic performance, or is there a possibility
that
misuse can lead to long term ill effects? Sometimes
athletes trade little known long term effects to be a winner
in a sports event. This, of course, presents the problem of
whether these same athletes are shortchanging their health
for a moment of glory.

Anabolic steroids are testosterone derivatives have
three areas of action for interest and concern. First they
can reverse effects of glucorticoid and help metalgolize
ingested proteins. This converts a negative nitrogen
balance into a positive one. Second, anabolic effects
directly induces skeletal muscle synthesis. Third, there is
a “steroid rush” a state of euphoria and decreased fatigue
that allows the athlete to train harder and longer.
(Ahrendt, 12). Other side effects reported have been water
retention, acne, gynecomastia or formation of breasts,
aggression, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, impotence,
and jaundice.

In an article entitled Are Drugs Winning the Games? it
is reported that there is no true way to test every athlete
for use of steroids. It claims that 10 competitors for
Olympic games at Seoul were ousted for taking steroids.
However, it also claims that as people watched the events on
television, there was no way of telling if “you were seeing
a clean or dirty event, a real athletic competition or a
duel between pharmacists. (Sullivan, 35)
This article goes on to say that most athletes who decide to
use steroids for enhanced performance can do so with
hard-to-detect drugs or to stop their intake well in advance
of expected tests. So, it is clear that many athletes are
sophisticated enough to carefully monitor intake of banned
substances such as steroids and still pass Olympic tests.
Robert Sullivan, the author of this article, goes on to say
that certain strength builders are very popular among
athletes and may go undetected. Anabolic steroids, or
strength builders, are short acting, water-based steroids
that can be flushed from the system in a matter of hours.
The most popular are synthetic derivatives of testosterone,
a hormone already present in the body. These are usually
extremely difficult to detect. (Sullivan, 31) So, it is
clear that athletes who want to subscribe to steroid use can
stay ahead of drug testing by finding the best stuff to
take. They seem to always be one step ahead of the drug
testers. In other words, drug testing is not always
detecting someone using the drug, but it does promote a well
informed group of athletes to stay ahead of them. These
same users believe that the enhanced performance is well
worth the possible side effects that may occur later.
Unfortunately, we do not always hear from these athletes
long after their days of competition are over when they
might be suffering from the ill effects of the steroids.
We only hear of the glory events in which they contended,
and the drugs that helped them to achieve these few moments
of glory.

There is no test yet for a genetically engineered
substance called hGH, which has been available since 1985.
This substance controls the release of IGF-1, which helps
maintain growth rates from birth to adulthood. It works by
reducing protein breakdown and stimulating cell production.
Studies in ice have shown that IGF-1 increased muscle
strength up to 27%, and even at a cost of $3,000.00 per
month. It also has a half-life of only 17 to 45 minutes, so
it flushes from the system in short order while its effects
linger. It is a banned substance, but since there is no
test for this substance and it produces a “Mighty Mouse”
effect, many athletes feel the trade off is worth it.
(Sullivan, 33) However, we do not know much about the long
term side effects of this drug. We do know, however, that
this drug was originally intended for growth-hormone
deficiency to help children with dwarfism. This is a
typical example of a research based drug that is intended
one thing being used for a totally different thing. The
problem is that its use among athletes has not been studied
for amount of dosage, the time intervals between
administration of the substance, and any ill effects that
may occur at a much later date.

Another new wave of drug enhancers is what is referred
to as blood substitutes. These are artificial hemoglobin,
which were originally designed to alleviate the need for
transfusions in surgery and to help patients in hemorrhage
shock. The brand name of this drug is called Hemopure. It
literally contains no red cells but consists of
ultrapurified, modified bovine hemoglobin suspended in a
salt solution. (Sullivan, 34). It has been used in clinical
trials in the United States, but not enough research has
been done to determine the safety of its use for athletes.
It has also found its way to the black market. Those who do
take the these “artificial bloods” stand the chance of
sudden death. This is because this substance is a tissue
enhancer to increase oxygen profusion in the tissue.
Doctors contend that this substance can actually short out a
body’s system dramatically and could cause death. However,
when a new wave of athletic enhancers becomes available,
athletes tend to justify the short positive outcomes for any
long term negative outcomes.

In the an article written by Rick Reilly, drug use
among baseball players is examined. Reilly cites that 15 to
30 percent of major leaguers are on illegal substances.
He even says that the sport should be referred to as “my
test tube can beat up your test tube.” (Reilly, 2) This
article further mentions that the sport of baseball does not
have the brains or guts to test for steroids even though the
NFL tests, the NCAA tests, and the IOC tests for this same
drug use.

Rick Reilly makes a good argument that athletes who use
steroids do suffer from the ill effects. He says that the
average numbers of players who spend time on the disabled
list has increased by 31.4% (pg.3) between 1989 and 1998.
Understanding and accepting the fact that many of these
players do take steroids, he bases his argument on the fact
that the energy or muscle enhancers cause players to exhaust
their natural abilities. This, in turn, ends up with
athletes who get injured because their bodies respond to the
punishment it is receiving. He even says that he cannot
think of even one player who used steroids that did not
actually break down physically. This, in turn, costs the
team as well as the team player.

Even though the Federal Government has allocated monies
for reserach on steroid use, there has not been sufficient
evidence to deter athletes from using them. Studies have
proven that steroid use can lead to many physical ill
effects, even death. However, the athletes of today seem to
rely more on their own handed down knowledge about these
drugs. They tend to think that the Federal Government has
its own secret agenda when publishing results of studies
that have take place. This agenda is to try and keep
athletic competition in its purest form, void of any
strength or endurance enhancers.

Athletes go into competition to win. If winning
entails using substances that can potentially cause health
risks, it seems the winning of a event is more important
than any health risks. Most of the most proficient athletes
today are very young. Their focus is not on the long term
effects that may harm them but the current results they see
from these same substances. It is apparent that more of the
athletes who have been on substances need to come forward to
warn the younger athletes who are dabbling with these
substances. Their own testimonies to the suffering they
endure at a later age may influence young athletes who need
a quick fix for endurance, stamina, or strength. Instead,
we do not hear much from the suffering of elderly athletes
after they have taken steroids, but we do hear of the glory
of the results from taking steroids. When athletes look
beyond the now and look into furure complications from
steroid use, they might start weighing the positive results
from the negative results. They might even admit that a
death sentence or a sentence of lifetime ailments is not
worth of the risk of taking steroids at an early age. The
risks are too great, even for the young athletes who
consider themselves to be invincible. More monies need to be
allocated to the research of potentially dangerous steroid
use. The results from the studies need to be more widely
publicized, as atletes today have instant access to
information via computers.

Sources Cited

Ahrendt, Robert. "Breaking the Steroids Habit." Newsweek 31 July 2007: 1-3.

Funk, Carlond, MD "The Whole Truth About Anabolic Steroids" Your Health, April 2002: 262

Kowalski, Charles E., and Virginia S. Cowart. The Steroids Game. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1988.

Reilly, Rick. "Excuse Me for Asking." Sports Illustrated 08/July/2002 10/Oct/06 .

Sullivan, Robert, and Sora Song. "Are Drugs Winning the Games?" Time 11 Sept. 2006: 43-44



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