My high school cross country coach once told me, “Ryan, greatness isn’t just given out; you have to go out and earn it. You can only earn it through an extreme amount of hard work and sacrifice.” Today how ever in the twenty first century this statement can become a lie. Greatness no longer requires the same amount of dedication as it did fifty years ago. Everyday greatness is given in the forms of needles and small pills. The doping situation in professional and amateur sports has become a serious problem. The number of athletes that have been caught doping is unacceptable. Something needs to be done that will stop or greatly reduce the number athletes using drugs to increase performance.
The most commonly used performance enhancing drug is the anabolic steroid. Steroids first came into massive use during the 1960’s (Robert Voy pg.48). The Soviet Union was the first country to allow steroid use. Steroids were first given to their track and field athletes to help aid in a victory over the United States. By 1980 professional baseball, basketball, and wrestling athletes had all been caught using steroids. One very recent case regarding athletic doping involved a rather famous track field athlete. The five time gold medalist in the 2000 Olympics, Marion Jones, denied the use of steroids for years. She is currently doing time in jail for lying to a federal agent regarding those drug allegations. When most people think of anabolic steroids, the idea of a pill comes to mind. While anabolic steroids are commonly taken in pill form, some athletes chose to take the steroid in liquid form. The liquid form is given though an injector. When an injector us used the steroid is injected directly into the muscle using a needle (Yesalis pg.342). Athletes demanding faster results will often turn to this method. While the liquid form does produce results faster results it also has more complications. When a steroid is injected directly into the muscle, the muscle that the steroid was injected has a higher probability of being strained; resulting in an injury (Lightsey pg.78). Another downside to the injected version of a steroid is that there is a higher probability of the drug being detected during a drug test. When the steroid is injected into the muscle some of the drug enters the surrounding fat. The steroid can remain in the fat surrounding the muscle for months at a time. There for giving the athlete a higher chance of testing positive.(Lightsey pg.99). The most commonly used steroids today that come in liquid and tablet form are Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Erythropoietin (EPO), Tetrahydrogestrione (THG) and Beta-Blockers (Lightsey pg.37). Each steroid is used to achieve a certain desired effect. HGH is a growth hormone that causes the muscle to become bigger and stronger. EPO causes to body to produce more red blood cells, EPO would be the drug of choice for an endurance athlete. THG is the most potent muscle building drug available on the market today. THG would be used by any athlete that needs to build strength or speed. Beta Blockers do not aid in muscle production or blood production. Instead they can “slow” the body allowing for more control and fluid movements. Figure skaters are the only athletes that would choose to use this drug.
When an athlete makes the decision to take steroids it’s based on two factors. The first and most obvious reason an athlete would choose to take steroids is increase in performance part. Every competitive athlete says they want to be the best; steroids would allow an athlete to train harder day after day. While athletes use “being the best” as there reason to take drugs. Sports psychologists list a number of different reasons. Most psychologists believe that self worth is the main motive behind steroid users (Tricker pg.99). Self worth can be described as the need to feel competent, achieving, and accepted. Who can provide this better to an athlete then the fans and supports of a given sport? With spectators and sports fans continually putting athletes on a pedestal, the athletes themselves are willing to do more and more to stay in the spotlight. If an athlete were to fade away or have an unsuccessful season his or her self-esteem would plummet. The need to feel wanted and adored combined with the feelings of depression would cause the athlete to resort to steroids. However some athletes never make the decision to resort to steroids. Instead their coaches make the decision for them. Some coaches will encourage or even demand that their athletes use steroids (Yesalis pg.67). While anabolic steroids may be the ticket to success for some coaches athletes that require strength to excel. Endurance athletes have turned to a different method for instance success. Blood doping doesn’t involve pills or steroids of any kind. It actually doesn’t involve anything other than your own blood. Blood doping is the process of removing blood from your body storing it in a freezer. Then months later just before a big race or competition you pump the blood back into your body (Lamb pg.213). Blood doping if performed properly has been proven to increase an athlete’s oxygen intake capacity, by no less than thirty percent (Lamb pg.215). However, just like steroids blood doping as its bad side. When the blood is being stored in a freezer some of the cells die. So when the blood is thawed and pumped back into the body, the athlete is also receiving dead cells along with all the other blood cells. If there is an extreme amount of dead cells in your blood, the dead cells can actually damage your internal organs (Lamb pg.216). Since blood doping is illegal it is not uncommon for the same needles to be used more than once. The use of needles more then once can lead to the transfer of HIV and other diseases that are transferred though blood (Lamb pg.217).
Professional athletes are not the only ones to have used steroids. The first public case of steroids being used in high school occurred in 1969. A Texas physician gave steroids to a high school football team for an entire season. More than one million teens have used illegal steroids. Fifteen to twenty percent of these teens have used steroids by the time they were a seniors in high school (Yesalis pg.43). Three times as many male teens have used steroids over female. While this is not a surprising fact next one is. News and World reported that fifty seven percent of teen steroid users said that they were influenced to use drugs by reading muscle magazines and that another forty two percent of teens said they decided to use them because they knew professional athletes were using them (Robert Voy pg.98). The pie graph below will give you the break down on the age groups using steroids.
Colleges also provide a reason for high school athletes to resort to steroids. Every high school athlete dreams of receiving a college scholarship. However, less than five percent of high school athletes in the United States receive a college athletic scholarship.
It doesn’t matter who takes the steroid it can be a professional athlete or a high school student athlete. Both are going to receive side effects from the drug. The side effects of steroids differ slightly for each gender. The common side effects that do occur in each gender are acne/pimples on the face and or back, “puffy” face or body, quick weight gain and sleeping problems are some of the side effects common in both sexes. Males will grow larger than normal breasts and highly encounter a number or sexual problems. Some sexual reproductive problems may be inability to get an erection, increased risk of tactical and prostate cancer, low sperm count and shrinking of the testicles can all occur from the use of steroids. Women can show an increased amount of body and facial hair along with a deepening of the voice. (Tricker pg.45-55)
Physical problems are not the only side effects that occur from the use or steroids. Mental side effects are also extremely common. Some common metal and physiological problems that accompany steroids are depression, irritability, impulsive behavior, jealousy, and mood swings can all be contributed form steroids (Judy Monroe pg.22). If steroids are taken by a teenager and he or she experiences a an extreme amount of mental side effects; it will likely effect there adult hood and make them more prone to have problems with the law at an older age (Judy Monroe pg.34)
Right now the penalties for doping are based on the sport its self. Each professional sports agency is taking their own steps to battle the ongoing steroid epidemic. The following is a list of current penalties for each professional sport that is currently encountering a drug problem. “NFL- First, time offense results in four game suspension. The second offense results in a six game suspension and the third offense results in a one year suspension. MLB- First, time offense is a mandatory drug rehab program. The second offense is a fifteen day suspension along with a 10,000 dollar fine. For each offense after the second the suspension and fine continues to double. NBA- First, time offender results in a five game suspension. Second, time offender receive a ten game suspension and third time offenders receive a 25 game suspension.” (Robert Voy pg.113)
For division one, two, and three colleges the penalty for doping is loss of eligibility for one year. For high school there is no nationwide punishment for doping. Each school district chooses to deal with steroid users in their own way. Some school districts have chosen to prohibit the athlete form all school related sports. Other districts have chosen just to fine the offender while others have just giver the athlete a slap on the wrist. A nationwide law needs to be enforced by the federal government to keep high school athletes drug free.
Right now both Federal and State governments have laws to control anabolic steroid use. The first law passed by congress regarding steroid use went into effect in 1988. The Anti-Drug abuse law made distributing or possessing anabolic steroids for non-medical reasons a federal crime. However, in 1990 congress toughed the law with the Anabolic Steroid Act due to the ineffectiveness of the 1988 law. With this act the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was created. The DEA controls all anabolic steroids. Even doctors have request approval for anabolic steroids though this agency. Anyone caught with anabolic steroids today and didn’t have approval from the DEA for the steroids could receive ten years in prison. While the United States does have law regarding the use or steroids the law is flawed. For a person to receive the ten years they have to be caught holding the drug. Testing positive for a anabolic steroid does not fall under the Anabolic Steroid Act so the DEA cannot prosecute athletes who have tested positive (Robert Voy pg.55).
The Olympic Committee also has and actually enforcers their own laws. They reserve the right to revoke any medal if an athlete has tested positive. They have used this right in a countless number of cases. They also demand that all athletes be ready to participate in a random drug test. The test can take place at any time and if the athlete refuses to take the test he or she will be disqualified from the games. The Olympic committee is currently deciding and voting on a law that would disqualify an athlete form all Olympic events if he or she tested positive to a random drug test.
The Olympic Committee was the first organization to truly recognize the steroid epidemic. Because of this they implemented there random drug testing policy. The Olympic committee first began tested athletes in the 1985 (Robert Voy pg.134) While they were the first organization to demand random testing. The significance of the testing being random was huge. If an athlete knows the date he or she will be tested. There are steps that can be taken to help prevent the athlete from showing positive. If a urine sample is used all the athlete has to do is stop taking the drug two weeks in advance and he or she would come back negative for any drug that was tested for. Testing for steroids is an extremely difficult problem that requires a huge amount of money. The number of tests done on professional athletes has dramatically increased over the last six years. (See graph on next page)
Testing just one athlete costs between 500 to 1000 dollars (Kennoth Jost). For the Beijing Olympics the committee spent over 300,000 dollars testing athletes. While testing is extremely expensive scientist have to know what they are looking for. They can’t just look at a drop of blood and tell whether or not an athlete has used drugs. Scientists have to runs tests to look for a one specific drug. Looking for one drug at a time requires multiple tests with the blood. It took scientists at UCLA 3 months to discover a test for THG. Scientists are always playing catch up in looking for ways to test for drugs. It takes so long to discover a test for a drug that by the time they do discover a test athletes are using a newer drug that requires a different test to detect it.
There are a lot of counter arguments arguing that steroids are helpful and should be legalized. The simple idea of steroids being legal is insane. While I can understand the use of steroids for medical reasons, but only when its prescribed by a doctor. If steroids were available to the public, we would have more people in the hospital because of overdose. Steroids can be helpful to the body but only in small amounts prescribed by a doctor. A doctor prescribes fifty to one hundred times less than the amount of a steroid if it was taken illegally.
The argument that testing is flawed is also not the strongest. However, there is one flaw in the testing system that certain exploit. The use or an inhaler is a type of steroid. The number of athletes that compete at the professional who do have asthma are near to none. The shape your body has to be in to compete at that level is extremely demanding. No athlete with asthma would truly be able to succeed. Athletes that do use asthma as an excuse if they are tested positive are most likely lying as a way to cover their steroid use.
Steroids need to be controlled, and it has to start at the professional level. If the steroid use is cleaned up there it will without a doubt filter down to the high school athletes. The only way to make professional athletes clean up their act would be to enforce a punishment so sevier that no one would risk using performance enhancing drugs. A fine that is basically a week’s paycheck is not enough. The punishment needs to be strict and to the point, a life time ban from professional competition. If the laws are enforced and testing is frequent and random. The doping problem that exists would soon fade away.