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Steroid Use in Athletics In society today people continually raise the bar for athletes participating in competitive sports. Superior performance and successful execution has now become expected of the athlete. Every athlete faces the obstacle of finding the means to achieve such a high level of performance. Dedication, hard work, and becoming a constant student of the sport, are just a few of the ways athletes should go about getting better. Contrasting to those admirable ways of improving performance many athletes have chosen to take the easy, not to mention illegal, way out. Steroids have become widely used among athletes not just on the professional level, but at all levels of participation. Use of steroids has been deemed illegal in athletics for good reason. Not only does the drug give an athlete and unfair advantage, but also the harmful side effects negatively impact the athlete as well as the sporting community. The drug, a synthetic derivative of the naturally occurring male anabolic hormone testosterone, can physically distort the athlete. It has a very dramatic effect on an athlete s body growth, muscle development, and other maturing aspects of the body. Helping the body retain dietary protein, the main source for muscle development, makes the drug appealing. Luring the athletes with increased muscle strength and mass, steroid abuse continues to rise. Many believe that only the football player or weightlifter abuse this drug. Contrary to that believe steroid abuse has increased in females and in adolescents. Desire to perform better, to feel better, and to look better has become the driving force for abuse. Negative side effects come hand and hand with the benefits of the drug. Surprisingly the drug affects males, females, and adolescents differently. Males actually experience a feminization effect even though the drug is derived from a male sex hormone. Some of the possible effects include: reduced sperm count, impotence, development of breasts shrinking of the testicles, and difficulty or pain while urinating. Women on the other hand experience a masculinization effect from the drug. Possible effects include: facial hair growth, deepened voice, breast reduction, and menstrual cycle changes. Dr. Wadler, a New York University School of Medicine professor and consultant of the U.S. Department of Justice on anabolic- androgenic steroid use, explains the dangers of steroids for adolescents as well. He says, What happens is that steroids close the growth centers in a kid s bones. Once the growth plates close they are impossible to reopen hence, stunting the child s growth. For the long term users side effects that occur in all abusers include: acne, bloated appearance, rapid weight gain, clotting disorders, liver damage, premature heart attack, elevated cholesterol, and weakened tendons. These side effects, considered serious and even fatal, still do not deter the dedicated athlete. The harmful impact of steroids does not end there; most users suffer psychologically as well. According to Dr. Wadler, anabolic steroids cause severe mood swings. People s psychological states can run the gamut, says Wadler. They can go from bouts of depression or extreme irritability to feelings of invincibility and outright aggression, commonly called roid rage. Withdrawal symptoms generated by steroid use include: decreased sex drive, insomnia, headache, fatigue, depression, anorexia, and dissatisfaction with body image. With high risks and very real dangers, one can hardly imagine why people would want to use steroids. Yet, in recent articles published by the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information has stated that 90% of professional athletes have at one time taken some form of illegal performance enhancing drug. By nature men and women try to seek dominance over their respected genders intellectually, physically, and aesthetically. Society has always praised the athlete who achieves the most amazing physical feats, and rewarded them with fame. Steroids offer an athlete instant personal gratification by increasing strength, enhancing power and achieving an extraordinary physique. Continually wanting more and a lingering feeling of unsatisfaction; drives athletes to an uncontrollable addiction. The cycle often continues until the athlete suffers from an onslaught of physical and mental health problems. These effects pose a danger not only to the steroid users but also to the public at large. The only way to remove the steroid abuse problem from athletics starts by changing the attitudes of the nation as a whole. Society must rid itself of the preconceived notion that bigger, stronger, and faster at any cost is better. Becoming the best should be just as important as the way in which it was achieved. People must have a no tolerance rule when it comes to steroid use in sports. In the incident of catching an athlete abusing this drug the sporting world should shun him denying him of all his accomplishments, and banning him from competing again. Until society takes a tough stand like this; the lives of good athletes and good people will remain in the balance.

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