Steroids: To what extent have steroids been shamed within modern society?
This is an article I wrote last year about steroids. Its long but it has a lot of good information in it. One thing I have found is people do not really know much about steroids. Read on and learn something!
Since the development of steroids and other anabolic hormones, there has been an enormous amount of controversy surrounding their use. The controversy originates from the possibility of negative side effects resulting from their usage. Steroids are drugs; side effects are a possibility of any drug. Steroids can be used in the medical field as a treatment of numerous medical disorders; however, the most widely known reason to use these drugs is for the sports performance benefits. The performance benefits include an increase of muscle building and muscle recovery. The integrity of sports and the moral issues lead to another reason for wide spread controversy. This article is aimed to give an informative and fair perspective on performance enhancing drugs.
Let’s start with a lesson on what “steroids” really are. There are two types of steroids anabolic and non anabolic. We are going to deal with anabolic steroids first. Anabolic steroids are chemically created synthetic versions of hormones. The most general anabolic steroid is derived from the male hormone testosterone however many different drugs get called “steroids”. According to the “Doping in Sports Timeline”, the chemical structure of testosterone was first established by Adolph Butenandt in 1935. Following the discovery, testosterone was used in the medical community in the late 1930’s. By comparison, the first known use of steroids in sports came at the 1954 world weightlifting championships held in Vienna Austria (DST).The reason for a span in time before steroids became thrust into athletics, was due in part to the fact they were relatively unknown outside the medical field, especially in America. Furthermore, the first time drug testing was introduced in athletics was at the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, France. The need for drug testing during the 1968 Olympic Games became apparent when a pharmaceutical company created Dianabol: the first popular steroid used primarily for muscle growth. Before the 1968 Games, Olympic officials were unaware of the wide use of steroids or the severity of their usage. Testosterone is not the only form of steroid or performance enhancing drug. During the 1980’s a drug that regulates red blood cells was brought into sports mainly by endurance athletes called erythropoietin (EPO). “EPO stimulates the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the muscles, thus fostering greater endurance for athletes” (Bamberger). Human Growth Hormone (HGH) was also developed during this time period, creating popularity in both the medical field as well as in sports. HGH has similar effects as testosterone but became increasingly popular because it is difficult to detect. HGH is also popular among the elderly trying to hold off the aging process. Furthermore, anti inflammatory drugs are also considered steroids and are widely accepted in the medical field. Cortisone is a form of steroid (not anabolic) that is used both in the general public as well as athletics for pain. New and improved drugs are being designed in labs across the world, meeting a high demand and expanding the limitations of modern science.
With the competitive nature of sports, athletes are always trying to gain an advantage over the competition. Some of these advantages are not considered unfair or illegal. “Virtually all athletes use various artificial means to enhance their body’s natural performance…” (Matthew Mitten). Additionally, the use of many performance enhancing supplements are not considered “Doping” in sports organizations. These substances such as Creatine are widely used and athletes are encouraged to do so. Similarly, steroid precursors, also called pro hormones are illegal and banned in sports organizations. The pro hormone Androstenedione (Andro) is known for its most famous user, Mark McGuire. Andro is only one molecular step away from testosterone. It works by aiding the body in the production of testosterone. According to Matthew Mitten, Pro hormones became illegal in the Anabolic Steroid control substance act of 2004. Before the act, in 2004, Andro and other pro hormones were available over the counter at heath stores. These substances were a highly effective means to help increase performance, however not as much so as synthetic steroids. The bottom line is steroids, when combined with vigorous physical training are effective in making users bigger, stronger and faster (Mitten). Steroids are effective and can be dangerous. On the other hand, athletes are given pain killers such as cortisone, to allow them to compete despite the fact they are drugs. The uses of these drugs are dangerous as well. Additionally, the use of low oxygen tanks is permitted; low oxygen tanks create the same effect as EPO. The tanks are allowed, EPO is not. In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal for steroid use. At the same Olympic Games, Janet Evans was praised for having a high tech fabric suit no one else had. The realization that some forms of enhancement will be allowed and some will not is difficult to comprehend from a competitive standpoint. Athletes are always going to attempt “to beat the system” and there is not anything drug testers can do. Athletes now have “gurus” who can be doctors or just as likely trainers that are self taught drug experts (Michael Bamberg). The “gurus” set the athletes steroid plan up, everything from timing to dosage. However, the main goal is to keep the athlete from failing a drug test. Don Catlin, one of the head drug testers for the IOC (International Olympic Committee) told Bamberg if steroids were legalized it would be nuts, it would be a race to get the best drug available. The race is on; however, the drug must be undetectable as well.
The sports world has evolved over the years. The days of athletes taking their bodies for granted are over. To think athletics has come to a point where one must put artificial substances into their bodies in order to compete is catastrophic. Baseball enthusiasts have the strongest stance on the subject. The “steroid era” as most people involved with baseball call it, has tarnished the record books. People feel it is unfair for modern athletes to have the advantage of performance enhancing drugs. Athletes from every generation have had advantages over the last. Sports change over time. Steroids do not increase one’s athletic ability. An athlete’s athletic ability and skill in their respective sport remains the same. Putting records aside, it is undeniably unfair for the athlete who feels strongly about their morals and beliefs who will not take the drug; steroids are an ethical issue. The question arises for athletes to make a decision based on how seriously they take their respective sport. Steroids should not limit an athlete’s potential, but enhance it.
Advances in science today lead to medical saviors tomorrow. Steroids in general are a medical advancement that should be utilized within society. Steroids (not anabolic) were first used in medicine in the 1930’s. Steroids are most commonly used to treat anemia, breast cancer, osteoporosis and aiding in the promotion of red blood cells (Perry). In addition, testicular cancer patients have become dependent on anabolic steroids following surgery. The removal of the testes is used in the treatment of testicular cancer. To replace the testosterone production, anabolic steroids are prescribed. Males who have Pituitary malfunction are given steroids to trick their body into puberty. Steroids are also a legitimate therapeutic treatment for muscle wasting conditions (Mitten).Steroids that are used for medical purposes are precisely dosed for the particular use. Steroids can be used with relative safety as long as the correct dosage is used. With proper administration and strict supervision steroids can be an effective way to benefit ones health without a medical disorder.
Anabolic Steroids have real side effects that can cause severe medical problems. Most negative side effects result from excessive usage or improper usage. The severities of the negative effects are based upon dosage, duration and type of anabolic. First, oral anabolics are most toxic to the liver, and can cause liver tumors. Oral anabolics are rarely used, as most users prefer injectable synthetics. Anabolics that are injected can lead to contamination of needles if proper precaution is not taken and dirty needles are used. Secondly, C-17 alkylated steroids are also detrimental to proper liver function. Prolonged use of C-17 anabolics can cause good HDL cholesterol levels to decrease to unhealthy levels (Perry). Many of the negative side effects reported by the media are over blown. There have been no confirmed studies showing “roid rage”. However an increase in aggression following steroid use is common. One explanation for this could stem from the fact when someone gets bigger and stronger they become more confident. With this confidence they feel like they are invincible and are immune to life’s consequences. Another explanation could be a placebo effect. People think they should become a mean and nasty person so they do. Steroids can turn a jerk into a bigger jerk or a confident individual into an extremely over confident individual. Meanwhile, increased blood pressure can result from steroid abuse along with enlargement of the heart. These problems are mostly associated with unhealthy users who have had problems in the past. If someone takes steroids with any of these problems already existing, they could encounter highlighted effects. HGH has side effects uncommon to other anabolics. Growth hormone users sometimes encounter forehead growth. The reason for this unnatural growth is a result from growth hormone causing not only muscles to grow but bones as well. Next, while taking steroids in high doses, there is an increased risk of prostate cancer. Most of these side effects could be prevented by correct dosages. In most cases, taking large doses does not increase effectiveness only increased negative side effects. The duration one is on anabolics is also important. Steroids are meant to be cycled. Prolonged use causes hormonal imbalances. Increased synthetic testosterone causes the body to shut down natural producers and signals an increase in estrogen production. When this is extended, the process is escaladed. There are off cycle drugs used primarily to return hormone levels back to normal. To use steroids one must have proper guidance from a knowledgeable source. Steroids are drugs and like any drugs, can be dangerous.
Drugs are a problem all over the world. All illegal drugs have a black market; people want what they cannot have. The largest problem for steroids is the black market. Prohibition naturally caused a black market and an increase in crime rate. Steroids are not any different, if people want anabolics they will get them, regardless if they are illegal. The black market yields steroids spiked or cut with other drugs intended only for veterinarian use only (Perry). Steroids bought on the black market are possibly not steroids at all. People turning to the black market are at risk of wasting their money on products that are not even steroids or worse getting severely injured . Most users, who are lucky enough to have found a physician willing to risk their careers, get a legal prescription. Doctors can diagnose a low testosterone rate or improper balance of testosterone to epitestoserone to give athletes the drug. Doctors give the athlete tests and analyze them as they choose. If the doctor reads the test results to be a low ratio of testosterone the doctor can prescribe steroids to the patient. This may sound crazy to some but its true and it happens all the time.
The controversy related to steroid use is complex. There will always be a valid discussion between the pros and cons of the topic. Whether it is for sports performance or medical benefits the debate will be present. The effects of steroids as a performance enhancer are well known and have been proven to be valid. In my opinion steroids should have no part in athletics, however I know that will never be the case. The medical field is also having success using steroids, a different kind of steroid. Steroids in general have gotten a bad reputation in modern society although they can be of some good. As any drug there are also side effects that can result from the usage. From weighing all sides and putting them into perspective, steroids are not any more dangerous than other drugs that are readily available to society. The bottom line is steroids are drugs and should be handled as such.