In the brutal cutthroat world of modern sports where athletes are in demand for excellence, athletes have been forced to find alternative means to improve their performance. Today, athletes often face a choice whether to use drugs to enhance their performance or to accept what could amount to a handicap. It is a choice that carries significant moral consideration, as currently, the use of performance enhancing drugs is banned from Olympic competition. Should athletes be allowed to make the choice of whether or not to use these drugs themselves?
Anabolic steroids are a group of drugs used as a chemical short cut to developing a more muscular looking body. They are a synthetic or laboratory made form of the natural male hormone testosterone. Anabolic means “tissue building.” Many athletes use steroids to build up muscles quickly. In reading the article “Over the Edge” by Bamberger and Yaeger (1997) they discuss the use of performance enhancing drugs used by Olympians. The authors detailed the widespread and effective use of performance-enhancing drugs used by Olympic athletes in the past decade. It explains how athletes will go to great lengths to do almost anything to gain the competitive edge in these competitions and even risk death by doing so. Now days, it is more likely for one of a team’s star player to show up at the beginning of the upcoming season with an extra solid 20 pounds of muscle as a result of taking drugs in the off-season. It goes into great detail about the 2.5 million-dollar effort towards drug testing at the 1996 Olympics games in Atlanta. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced a new piece of equipment, a High-Resolution Mass Spectrometer, for the games. The funny thing was it found five positive tests for anabolic steroids. Were the athletes disqualified? The athletes were not disqualified because the tests might not hold up in court, as the machine was “relatively untested” (Bamberger &Yaeger, 1997, p.60-70).
The authors who wrote this article interviewed a lot of drug insiders and came up with three distinct classes of top level athletes. The first one is a group of athletes who use no performance enhancers. They are totally clean. The second one would be a larger group who takes performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids. This group usually does not get caught. This group of athletes quite often takes drugs that are not being tested for, such as Bromantan, a Russia stimulant used to help adjust to extreme cold or heat. The athletes may also use amounts that are below the levels allowed by the IOC or they include something to mask the presence of drugs in the athletes system. The third group, which is the smallest of all the groups, is the one that is caught with the drugs in their system. Most often, the athlete has to be very careless to get caught, as these athletes tend to be very calculated with the timing of the drug usage.
Overall, the article is a little long on talking about the way the testing is conducted. It is an honest look at the world on sports. I like most of the quotes from the reading. The one I enjoy is from Kooman, “All athletes someday have to choose: Do I want to compete at a world-class level and take drugs, or do I want to compete at a club level and be clean?” (1997, p.60-70) This piece is great because it is often reality. This is what athletes are faced with everyday especially in sports such as sprinting, weightlifting, or gymnastics. I think athletes in these sports are faced more with whether or not to turn to drugs, as they are individual sports. The athlete counts solely on his/herself. It is just the athlete against the other man or woman. My belief is that drugs should not be banned from sports. It would level the playing field for all athletes, because I feel that about 80% of all athletes are on some kind of performance enhancing drugs. I do not blame them, for if I had a chance to be in the Olympics and I knew the guy I was racing against was on “the juice“, I would be on it too. This is because I know that you can’t contend sufficiently against an opponent who is using steroids to accomplish higher levels of performance. It is very difficult for a women or a man to be the best when they are competing against athletes who are using substance that may be performance enhancing. Steroids are legal to use. It is only in Olympic sport that they are illegal. If they were that bad for you they would be illegal to take. In addition, a complete professional investigation of the long and short-term effects caused by steroids on men and women is far overdue. So why do athletes risk their health and their opportunity to compete by using drugs? There is, of course, no single answer to the question because athletes have different reasons. Athletes are a part of a much larger social community, and steroid abuse is widespread in this larger social community. Athletes are not immune from these influences. In a perfect and fair world there wouldn’t be drug abuse, but this is not a perfect world.
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