The Use Of Performance Enhancing Drugs In Sports
English Composition 100
Dr. Fergal O’Doherty
A Causal Analysis: The Use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports
Is the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports dangerous? To what degree do these drugs really enhance strength, size, training ability, and muscular performance? Not only are the answers to these questions still unclear, they are the subjects of deep controversy.
In order to understand why we are confronted with the problem of performance-enhancing drug use in athletics today, we must look at the history of the development of anabolic steroids: a group of powerful synthetic chemical compounds that resemble the natural male sex hormones (Schwarzenneger 722).
Anabolic steroids were first developed in the 1930’s as a therapeutic drug to treat growth hormone replacement in deficient children, menopausal symptoms, impotence, and the retardation of the effects of aging by stimulating the rate of synthesis of protein molecules (Biology 121 Web Project 1). These steroids are a simulated testosterone hormone of the “steroid hormone” group. The steroid hormones (which are also produced naturally) are synthesized from cholesterol. Most simply understood, the hormones function by passing from the blood stream into individual cells where they bind to a receptor and activate certain genes that cause the production of a protein, especially muscle proteins (et. al.).
By the late 1940’s, bodybuilders had discovered the effects of testosterone as a means to stimulate muscle growth and to make themselves train with more intensity and aggression (Schwarzenneger 723). In 1953, the first truly synthetic anabolic steroid was developed, having a strength-building effect three to five times higher than testosterone. From bodybuilders to other athletes, steroid use quickly gained popularity as the number of people who used them continued to rise (Biology 121 Web Project 1). In the 1960 Olympic games, the International Olympic Committee, for the first time, detected a case of steroid use-a Russian cyclist collapsed and died after using steriods (Meoreira de Araujo 1). At the 1972 Olympic games, a large number of athletes from a variety of sports were interviewed about their drug use and a total of 68 percent admitted to using anabolic steroids (Schwarzenneger 723). Throughout the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s, additional forms of anabolic steroids were developed despite a number of scientific studies being conducted on the effectiveness and dangers of their use (et. al.).
Today, it is common knowledge that steroids cause some bodily harm. However, not everyone is familiar with the extent of the possible side effects. Listed below are several examples: (Meoreira de Araujo 5).
· Altered liver function caused by the stress placed on the liver while trying to remove steroids from the blood.
· Jaundice, peliosis hepatitis, hemorrhaging, and liver cancer are possible with prolonged use.
· Alteration of cardiovascular function: Effects include changes in the clotting of blood, atherosclerosis, and higher levels of cholesterol.
· Reduction of natural testosterone production.
· Increase of male sexual characteristics in females, such as, increased body hair, atrophied breasts, and deepening of the voice.
· Gastrointestinal disorders, including loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.
· Muscle cramps
· Headaches and nosebleeds
· Gynecomastia (development of breastlike tissue in males).
· Increased susceptibility to tendon injuries.
Now that the history and effects of steroid use have been explained, I believe the following to be the causes of steroid use:
1. Fear of the competition.
2. Physical appearance.
Dr. James E. Wright, a noted authority on the subject of steroid use in athletics, states “more than 90 percent of athletes in strength-related sports are using these drugs today.” And, according to Arnold Schwarzenneger, the main reason athletes take them is “because they know their competition is taking them and they don’t want to give away an advantage.” (723). Many beginner and intermediate bodybuilders, for example, who hear that the champions are using steroids, believe that they too can make enormous gains by taking these drugs. Studies done, however, on the effect of steroids do not bear this out (et. al.). Steroids have their greatest effect on size and strength only when the athlete has plateaued-that is, made about as much gain as possible without the use of drugs. Trained individuals respond to steroids much better than untrained ones. Gains are also maximized if training very hard during the period of steroid use. In either case, athletes (trained or untrained) who fear each other’s competition are none-the-less putting themselves at great health risks (Schwarzenneger 724).
The second cause of steroid use is the need for a more desirable physical appearance. Over the last ten years, the use of drugs in sports has become epidemic and their use is not only limited in top athletes. It is now being used by non-competition athletes for a quick and easy body image make-over (Meoreira de Araujo 5). An alarming statistic is about the age when people start to use these drugs. A review conducted at a Michigan high school (Buckley and Yesalis 1988) reported a 3 percent use rate-5 percent of the males and 1 percent of the females use or had used anabolic steroids. What is more, Buckley and Yesalis also found that over two-thirds of the users initiated steroids when they were sixteen years old or younger and improvement of “physical appearance” was the main reason for 90 percent of the users (Meoreira de Araujo 5). According to General Barry McCaffrey, Director of the White House Drug Policy, the fear is that America’s children will emulate the athletes in the big-time leagues who develop giant muscles and look good in their uniforms, only to undermine their future health (Vecsey 2). “Teenagers should never take anabolic steroids in an attempt to increase their physical appearance,” states Arnold Schwarzenneger. During the teenage years, young adults, especially males are already in their most anabolic state, with testosterone flooding the system. Adding synthetic anabolics at this point is totally unnecessary. Additionally, steroids tend to close over the ends of growing bones. A teenager who has not yet achieved his/her total growth may find that steroids prevent him/her from growing to full height and this effect is totally irreversible (725).
In conclusion, we are confronted with the problem of steroid use in sports today because of the aforementioned fear of the competition and the desire to improve physical appearance. We must create both national and international task forces aimed at educating the youth of the world and this country about the use steroids.
“Anabolic Steroids How They Work: History of Use in Sports: Side Effects and Links.” Biology 121 Web Project/Anabolic Steroids. 9 Nov. 2000. 6 Nov. 2000 *http://www.people.virginia.edu/ abs9f/*.
Meoreira de Araujo, Mario Cesar and Marcelo R. Facio. “The Use of Anabolic/Androgenic Steroids by Athletes.” Use of Anabolic/Androgenic Steroids by Athletes MEDSTUDENTS-SPC. 9 Nov. 2000. 6 Nov. 2000 *http://www.medstudents.com.br/sport2.htm*.
Schwarzenegger, Arnold. Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
Vecsey, George. “The Real Goal is Protecting the Children.” The New York Times 17 Sept. 2000, col. Sports of the Times: 1-3. 18 Sept. 2000 *http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?TS=969323324&RQT=309&CC=1&Dtp=1&Did=000000060561967&Mtd=1&Fmt=*.
Word Count: 1166
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