Steroid Use and Abuse in Sports

Steroids, like most of the things around us, can be considered both good and bad. It just depends on how it is used. It can be used to alleviate certain kinds of diseases at the same time can also causes various abnormalities in the body. Steroids have gained popularity among athletes in the past decades or so. It had helped them in their careers while it also had brought bad effects to their health and life. It was accepted as a supplement in their trainings but use or for a better term, abuse of this drug was also condemned by society. Most of the time, it is how it was used that lead to adverse side effects. Lack of knowledge about steroids can cause someone’s life as it can bring irreversible side effects. This paper will look closely at the drug which has gain controversy and caught the interests of media specially those in sports. It will try to shed some light on what steroids are really all about and how it can benefit and at the same time ruin the lives of those who experiment in using them. It will also discuss certain actions or interventions the government and the society have tried to lessen if not entirely eradicate the dire effects of this drug on the athletes and the youth today.

Anabolic-Androgenic steroids are drugs made by man that contains substances which are related to the male sex hormones. The term anabolic means muscle-building while androgenic refers to increased masculinity. These drugs are legally available by prescription. It is in fact used to cure conditions of the body that are related to low production of testosterone. This is usually prescribed to patients with delayed puberty and certain types of impotence. Likewise they are also given to patients with AIDS when they are already experiencing body mass deterioration that results to loss of lean muscles. Steroids are administered orally or can be injected. There are also creams or gel types that can be applied to the skin (NIDA, 2005).

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Athletes and other people, especially young individuals, also use steroids to help them enhance their performance or their physical appearance (Roberts, n.d.). But more often than not, they abuse anabolic steroids. There are people who suffer from a syndrome called dysmorphia. This is a behavior abnormality which causes the patient to have distorted view of their body. Males see their bodies as thin and weak although they are already huge and muscular. While females see that they are fat and ugly but in reality are already toned and lean. Athletes and trainers use anabolic steroids to enhance their performance (NIDA, 2005). Steroids usually help them endure longer hours of training, give them extra power and strength during competitions and boost their efficiency in whatever sports they are doing. Body builders and weightlifters abuse steroids because it increases muscle size in shorter period of time as oppose to normal muscle training.

According to researches from National Institute of Drug Abuse, steroid abusers use doses 10 to 100 times higher than what is normally prescribed in medical conditions. There are several ways abusers use steroids and they are called cycling, stacking and pyramiding. Cycling is a term which refers to patterns of taking multiple dosages in a span of time, then stopping for a while and starting again. Stacking is when abusers take different kinds of steroids to achieve a different effect from just taking the drugs individually. Some also take other kinds of drugs that would alleviate some of the effects of steroids. They can also take other drugs that can make the steroids untraceable in their bodies. This is usually done by athletes who need to undergo steroid testing before a competition. This is very harmful as sometimes they even use drugs which are intended for veterinary use. Also, the outcomes of experimenting with two or more kinds of steroids or other drugs have no scientific approval and can result to unknown and possibly dreadful side effects. Lastly, pyramiding refers to the process where abusers slowly increase their doses and frequency and reach a peak in the middle of a cycle and gradually lessen the dosage toward the end of each cycle. Pyramiding usually happens in cycles of 6 to 12 weeks. After a cycle, athletes train without steroids and then start using steroids again. They think that this process allows the body to adjust to the high dosage and the time when they train without steroids gives the hormonal system to adjust too. These processes are highly risky since there are no scientific data to back them up.

There are many health hazards attributed to the abuse of steroids. Some can be treated if the user stops taking the drugs, while some are reversible. Some effects are just mild abnormalities, while some are even life threatening. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, data about the long term effects of steroids in humans came from case reports rather than epidemiological studies. In these cases, life threatening effects are low but the serious effects could have been unreported because they may come out at a later time. Documented animal studies however, showed that exposing male mice for one fifth of their lifespan can possibility result to shortened lifespan as a consequence of exposure to steroids.

In humans, steroid abuse can alter the normal production of hormones. Men abusers could experience shrinking of the testicles which is called testicular atrophy and can be accompanied by reduce sperm production that could lead to impotence. The more serious side effects include baldness and breast development or gynecomastia. Meanwhile, females who use steroids can cause their body to change drastically. Breast size would decrease, excess body and facial hair but would lose scalp hair, enlargement of the clitoris and deepening of the voice. Teenagers who use steroids at an early age can stun their growth. Normal levels of testosterone and other sex hormones signal the growth of muscle and bones during puberty and are also responsible for stopping the growth. But using steroids will result to abnormal high levels of sex hormones and could prematurely stop the muscles and bones to grow before it reaches its maximum potential. Steroid abuse has been also related to cardiovascular diseases. It changes the level of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol in the blood. It increases the level of LDL or low density lipoprotein and decreases HDL or high-density lipoprotein. LDL is the bad cholesterol and HDL is the good cholesterol. Changes in their levels could result to atherosclerosis, in which fat is deposited inside arteries and can disrupt the blood flow. This makes the heart difficult to pump blood for circulation. Other harmful effects of steroid abuse include liver and kidney tumors, severe acne, cysts and oily hair and skin. Infection could also occur when abusers share or use non-sterile syringes to inject steroids. They could acquire viral infections like HIV and hepatitis B and C (NIDA, 2005).

Steroids also have reported effect on behavior of abusers (Roberts). High doses can cause irritability and aggression resulting to physical fighting, armed robbery and vandalism. Depression also occurs when the abuser stops taking steroids so they become dependent and addicted to the drug. Other behavioral side effects include paranoid jealousy, delusions and impaired judgment.

Steroid use in sports can be dated way back just before the World Weightlifting Championship in 1954 (Roberts, n.d.). The Soviets made quite a performance and dominated most of the weight classes. Dr. John Ziegler, the team physician for United States, asked the Soviet’s team doctor and he admitted to administering his team with testosterone injections. That could probably be the first time anyone has used steroids to enhance their athletic performance. When Dr. Ziegler came back from the World Weightlifting Championship he started researching and developing testosterone injections that are better for his own team. Together with Ciba Pharmaceutical Company, Dianabol was created. After that, different kinds of steroids were also created that also have different set of characteristics. Steroid use became popular worldwide and different countries began using and developing steroids too. Later on, steroids were banned from athletic competitions especially in Olympic Games because of ethical and moral concerns. Some athletes still gambled and continued taking steroids. Steroid testing was then imposed by International Olympic Committees. Developers then started making versions that would be hardly detected by the testers then. Steroid use became an underground thing in the sports community. Because of the pressure to excel in their performance, efficiency in training and to get better contracts some athletes continued to take steroids. The media was caught in the frenzy as scandals and issues arise from the banning of steroid use. In 1987 the National Football League introduced its anti-steroid policy. Steroid use also became prevalent in high schools. Young athletes felt the pressure to compete for college scholarships for their future (Livingstone, 2005). It could also be attributed to the fact that they see their idols use steroids and copy them thinking it would do them good. There had been reports that steroids use in high schools destroys the life and families of the students.

There have been many controversies that sprouted from different sports community. In the San Diego Union-Tribune, most of the issues came from baseball players confessed in using steroids. Because of these confessions regulations where created that would control and oversee the abuse of steroids. Government interventions were also created. Still, it cannot be avoided that athletes would be hesitant to adhere to periodic testing as they feel some of their rights are violated.

The issue of steroid use and abuse may be way long from over. Right education and knowledge about the use and effects of abuse of steroids could help enlighten abusers and avoid the adverse effects of these drugs. Protocols and regulations of the availability of these drugs could also lessen the incidence of high school and young athletes from being exposed to them. In summary, steroids is not entirely a bad thing, it has certain benefits when administered correctly and in the right dosage. The fine line between use and abuse should be a little more visible.