Anabolic Steroids: Athletes’ Fix for their Need to Win

One of the most anticipated events this year is the summer Olympics which will be held in China this August. The Olympics has long been considered as the most spectacular event in history. Every four years, athletes from all over the world congregate and would compete with each other in various sporting events to bring their country glory, fame and the most coveted Olympic Gold Medal. Initially, the Olympics have been a symbol of sportsmanship and fair play throughout the world.

Yet, over the years, this image of the Olympics has been repeatedly tarnished by the number of scandalous disqualifications and even stripping off of the prized Gold medal from a number of athletes when they were discovered to use various performance-enhancing drugs as part of their regimen. One of these drugs that have been known to be used by athletes around the world is anabolic steroids, or simply steroids.

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Steroids consumed by athletes are synthesized male hormones called testosterones in order to increase their muscle mass and body strength. By nature, testosterones are not harmful. Present in varying quantities among men and women, testosterone retains nitrogen gas in the human body to allow muscles to develop as well as to aid in the production of red blood cells in the body. Unfortunately, when an individual consumes excessive amounts of steroids, this would lead to adverse and irreversible changes in the body.

Synthetic testosterone found in anabolic steroids have been found to increase hair growth, increase in the size of the female’s clitoris, decrease the size of the female’s breast, increase the male breast tissues, deepening in one’s voice, and a decrease in both the number of sperm produced by males as well as the size of their testes (Bower 30; Mattrom 138-144; Murray 24; Waddington 155; Zemper 113).

Other negative effects seen with steroid users are the changes that occur in their behavior. Anabolic steroid users have been seen to experience feelings of depression, decrease in appetite, sleeping disorders, delusions, hallucinations, and an increase in the feelings of aggression (Bower 30-31). The use of performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids is not a recent phenomenon.

Evidence that athletes utilized some form of performance-enhancing drugs can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks, who developed and introduced the Olympics to the world. During their Olympic games, athletes would undergo various regimens to improve their performance with the Greek physician Galen prescribing stimulants to the athletes who would be competing in the ancient Olympic Games (Mottram 29; Murray 24). In the 1950s, the body building athletes in the United States began to use anabolic steroids.

The usage of steroids began to spread all over the world with many speculating that the Russians who swept the gold medals for the various weightlifting categories in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki were able to do so as a result of the use of steroids (Mottram 31, 138). In the early 1960s, the Medical Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) began to develop a drug-testing program. This was first implemented during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City for the use of amphetamines and psychomotor stimulants.

The drug testing to determine the use of steroids by athletes during the Olympics took effect in 1976 (Zemper 114). Despite the measures taken by various sporting commissions and the threat of the possibility of being unable participant in any events in the future, athletes continue to use steroids as part of their regimen in order to prepare themselves for an upcoming event. This is clearly evident when a football player from the University of Oklahoma was barred to participate in a game after being tested positive for steroids (Miller 16).

Ben Johnson, a Canadian sprinter, was stripped of his gold medal which he won in the 1988 Seoul Olympics after tests revealed that he was using steroids (Mishra 24). Sporting committees have viewed the banning of performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids were done in the effort to prevent an athlete from gaining an unfair advantage against his or her opponent (Fost 5). Many would have thought that this move would be well-accepted by the various athletes since this would mean that their competitors would think twice before using performance-enhancing drugs.

Sadly, this is not the case. Not only are athletes still continuing in taking anabolic steroids despite the harsh penalties that they would have to face in the event that they are discovered by the organizers of the sporting event, but the ages of the athletes using anabolic steroids as athletic performance-enhancers are getting younger and younger. In fact, a national survey was conducted among high school senior athletes more than two-thirds of the respondents had admitted that they have been using athletic performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids as early as 11 years of age (Bower 31).

The problem of athletes using steroids in both the amateur and professional level is rooted on the one desire of these athletes: the desire to win. To these athletes, the difference between winning first and second is more than the color of the medal that each athlete would have around their head. For them, it means the difference between gaining or losing fame, financial reward, international recognition and honor not really for their country, but more for themselves. Amateur athletes have been exposed to the benefits winning first place would bring.

The financial and personal benefits an athlete would be entitled to receive in return for winning the gold medal or the first place trophy gives the athlete a notion that winning a competition is a valid goal in society. As a result, they would do anything and everything in order to be able to gain the upper hand from their opponent so much so that many athletes are willing to test their limits and their boundaries to do so (Fost 9). Another reason why athletes continue to use steroids despite its illegality is because of the fear of being removed from the team.

Because of an illness or an injury, a player would not be able to compete to the best of his or her ability without the help of performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids. As a result, they may not only be benched for the remainder of the season, but their poor performance may cause him or her to be taken off from the team entirely. This situation affects professional athletes whose careers are always threatened by the introduction of younger players into the team (Bower 31; Fost 9).

This is also why some athletes have stated that they have used steroids in order for their bodies to recuperate after a sporting event at a faster pace, most especially if they have suffered any injuries. The athletes are frequently subjected to injuries affecting their muscles, ligaments and tendons. It is common for athletes to ingest analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs in order for the athlete to continue to train and even compete for a certain period of time while recovering from his or her injury (Miller 16; Mottram 162).

Contrary to the belief of sporting committees and organizations that athletes would favor the sanctions against steroid users, athletes in fact are compelled to use some form of performance-enhancing drug such as steroids when they compete not to gain an upper hand against their competitors, but to in fact give them a fighting chance. Because they are aware that majority, if not all, athletes competing utilize some form of performance-enhancing drug or training technique, not using this would pretty much mean that they have already lost the event without it even beginning (Fost 7).

This is because athletes, professional and amateur alike, contest that the use of steroids alone does not do much to be give them an edge against their opponent. Rather, it provides them an added boost in order to train longer and harder. Only by doing so they believe that they will be able to enhance their performance. To further strengthen their claims, many health experts have been known to become skeptical about the relationship between the use of steroids to the increase in the performance of an athlete stating that most steroids merely aid in water retention (Murray 26).

Indeed, athletes from different sporting fields and events have been known to swear that they would do anything and take anything, even if it meant them pushing themselves well beyond their limits in order to achieve the fame and financial gain that they are aiming for as well to ensure that they remain professional players and would not be forced to retire because of old age or because a new recruit has overshadowed him or her (Murray 27).

Perhaps what fueled the athletes to take the risk of using performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids in competing is that regardless on whether an athlete ingested some form of steroid during or prior to a sporting event for performance-enhancement reasons or other reasons, that athlete would still be disqualified. This is because, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), anabolic steroids are able to treat certain forms of anemia as well as breast cancer among females. It is also beneficial for individuals suffering from hereditary angiodema, which is a severe allergic reaction to insect bites, foods and viruses (Miller 16).

As such, many athletes ingest some form of steroid without necessarily it being for performance-enhancement purposes. This was the case during the 1972 Olympic Games. Rick DeMont, a long-distance swimmer, won the gold medal for the United States. A young man diagnosed with asthma, he was forced by officials to relinquish the gold medal that he had won for his country after he was tested positive for steroids. What was surprising was that DeMont was not even aware that he was ingesting any steroids.

It was only after that they discovered that his prescribed medications for his asthma contained the steroid substance ephedrine which the Olympics officials considered to be an illegal steroid to be ingested by the athletes during or prior to any sporting event in the Olympics (Fost 5). The incident that occurred during the Olympics in 1972 raises extreme doubt on the allegations that athletes mainly use steroids for performance-enhancing purposes. Like any other person, an athlete is liable to suffer from a major or minor illness that requires treatment with drugs.

Athletes would frequently experience injuries involving muscles, ligaments and tendons during either training or even during the sporting event itself. It has been considered common that for as long as the injury received by the athlete is not too serious, he or she may be allowed to still compete after being given either an anti-inflammatory drug or a pain killer. When a child is asked to describe what or who an athlete is, the last thing on their mind would be someone who would use artificial means in order to achieve their goal which is to win, whether it is a financial grant, additional sponsorship, or a college scholarship.

Athletes have long been known as physically gifted men and women who, because of their genetic makeup, determination, passion and dedication to a particular field of sport, are able to beat all the odds almost to the point of being considered superhuman. Sadly, this image of the stereotypical athlete is not so stereotypical any longer. It is indeed ironic that many sporting events and organizations would attempt to ban the usage of various drugs but would condone other performance-enhancing regimens such as modifications of the athletes’ diet, the intake of vitamin supplements, excessive training and the like.

To make matters worse, athletes have used illicit drugs in order to increase their endurance. Up until the 1950s, athletes have been using various drugs such as cocaine and strychnine which are considered to be illicit drugs in order to boost their performance level when they compete. It was only upon the introduction of anabolic steroids that the usage of cocaine and strychnine took a back seat in terms of the athlete’s preference (Mottram 29-30). In an attempt to solve this problem, more and more sports organizations such as the NCAA have begun to test athletes as part of their protocol during every season for anabolic steroids.

However, they have failed to include illicit drugs in their tests. They have stated that they need not to include these illicit drugs because the effects of these illicit drugs on the part of the athlete would be negative as opposed to the usage of anabolic drugs (Zemper 118-19). Also, coaches have begun to team up with health experts in trying to discover healthier and “fair” alternatives in order to prepare the athletes for the upcoming Olympics to be held in China this August.

Here, they use modern day technology to pinpoint the weaknesses of the athletes in order for the athletes to concentrate on these weak spots in order to improve their performances. But these advancements do not come in cheap and athletes are able to acquire the treatment through the help of their sponsors. This is not the case for university athletes, much less for high school athletes who are hoping that their achievements in their high school varsity would be their ticket to enter a university and to be able to achieve a better lifestyle than what they currently have.

The problem of anabolic steroid usage can be addressed through education on the part of the schools to their students with regards to the adverse effects that the use of anabolic steroids to increase their performance levels. The local government may be able to help the problem by providing proper funding to the universities and high schools to provide promising athletes with a training regime that is similar to what professional athletes are able to have. One of the most common things a parent would tell a child while growing up is that “winning is not everything.

This may be the case, until the child grows up and becomes an athlete in his or her high school varsity. Once he or she steps into this world, everything changes. For the budding and aspiring athlete who dreams of one day competing in the Olympics or building a career like his or her idols have done, winning has become everything. For them, there is no second place. It is either they reach the first place or nothing at all. Not because they have become sore losers or they have become extremely perfectionists when it comes to their chosen sport.

But, for them, the only way that they would be able to be recruited to represent their city, town, state and country is by being able to have an explicit winning record in their chosen sport. The athlete who shows the most promising future in a sporting event is usually the one who is given the best opportunities and the best deals whether it involves attaining a scholarship to the athlete’s school of their dreams to becoming a product endorser and receiving sponsorship from companies.

The main goal of sports is to foster the traits of fair play and to give an opportunity for athletes to compete with each other and with themselves for their betterment. Unfortunately, it has become clear that fair play has taken a backseat on the goals driving an athlete to win. For them, winning is the difference between living the life of their dreams or becoming a failure making winning the most important thing to achieve in any sporting event.