Steroid Use in Sports
& Olivia Grout
6 Dec. 2012
Steroid Use in Sports
The NCAA and MLB have very different, yet strict drug policies that protect their athletes and run throughout their programs. Termed as “Performance Enhancers”, the NCAA bands any drug or hormonal substance that is chemically or pharmacologically related to testosterone, as well as any current illegal drugs. Stimulants, anabolic agents, masking agents, analogues, anti-estrogen and beta-2Aagonists are examples of currently banned substances. The MLB has a much more in-depth list of banned substances, including 70 banned steroids, 56 banned stimulants and 8 banned “drugs of abuse”. Among the 70 banned steroids, three of the most popular within professional sports are listed including, Methandienone, Nardrolone and Stanozolol. “Drugs of abuse” are classified as those drugs that are already illegal under the federal government; marijuana, MDMA and cocaine for example. Today there is a cloud over the use of steroids that creates the idea that performance enhancers are bad, not matter how they are termed or classified. However, as studies continue to show that steroids can be used safely, more people are beginning to take them and therefore, the argument for the use of them to be legalized continues to get stronger. Each year the NCAA spends approximately 6 million dollars on drug testing and drug education. In regard to steroids and the current trend of athletes taking them, along with the costs of physically banning the substances, questions of rather to allow for the use of regulated performance enhancers have begun to arise and gain interest. In an article by Chester and Green, anabolic steroids have been linked to cardio vascular disease in many studies. Other negative health effects of steroid use are infertility in both men and women, negative effects on the liver, as well as ligament and tendon deficiency. Though, when strictly monitored by a physician, anabolic steroids have shown positive effects on patients (Sari, 2010). According to Sari, “synthetic analogues were initially developed to treat catabolic medical conditions”. These catabolic states of patients, in which anabolic steroids have been used, were osteoporosis, severe burns and even depression. Although we have seen situations in which steroid use is monitored and overseen by doctors, many professional athletes have not used such guidance. That being said, numerous people around the world believe that there are several pros and cons associated with the use of steroids. Aesthetically there are obvious pros that come with taking steroids, such as the increase in individual self-confidence due to an enhanced physical appearance. However, not all but most athletes take steroids mainly in order to increase physical performance and overall fitness. The way steroids increase muscle efficiency is by providing synthetic energy to them prior to a work-out and then shortening the amount of required rest time needed after a workout, therefore enabling athletes to not only workout harder, but for longer and more often also. Although an increase in self-confidence is not always the primary goal for an athlete to begin taking steroids, its effect is likely realized due the correlation between physical appearance and performance to individuals perceived self-confidence. On the other hand, the cons associated with steroid use are why the use of them is currently banned in sports. As steroids provide a “quick fix” mentality for athletes, they are often taken as a morally binding issue. Also, steroids not only create an unequal playing field for athletes who refuse to use them, but also steroids create a reliance on drug use in order to achieve high levels of competition, which negatively effects the youths perception of role models. When kids see their sport hero’s taking performance enhancers, it not only perpetrates the continued use of them, but also the idea that without steroids, a high level of performance is not attainable. Aside from that but equally important, a con to the use of steroids is that when misused and improperly monitored steroids can be extremely detrimental to a person’s health and even deadly in certain cases. Also the long-term health effects associated with steroid use are unknown, thus making them potentially dangerous to any person using them now. In a recent case involving Lance Armstrong, the illegal use of anabolic steroids and blood doping methods has begun to surface. Lance Armstrong was accused by the United States Anti-Doping Agency of using anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs throughout his cycling career. In the case titled United States Anti-Doping Agency v. Lance Armstrong, the USADA moved to impose a lifetime ineligibility and disqualification of competition results achieved since August 1st, 1998. The evidence consisted of fifteen professional cyclists and twelve members of Armstrong’s cycling team. Nine of these witnesses were clients of Armstrong’s same physician, Dr. Michele Ferrari, and have firsthand knowledge of his doping practices. Bank transaction records also acted as witness to the case, displaying more than one million dollars in payments by Armstrong to Dr. Ferrari. Emails and laboratory results were also used as forms of evidence against Mr. Armstrong. The charges against Armstrong, by the USADA, include (1) the use and/or attempted use of prohibited substances and/or methods, (2) possession of prohibited substances, (3) trafficking, (4) administration and/or attempted administration, (5) assisting, encouraging, aiding, covering up and other complicity involving blood-doping rule violations (USADA, 2012, p.1-76). The USADA found “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” (USADA, 2012, p. 57) that Lance Armstrong engaged in serial cheating through use, administration and trafficking performance-enhancing drugs. The agency also found Armstrong guilty of running the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team as an underground, blood-doping conspiracy. Overall, the USADA found that Armstrong violated numerous anti-doping rules and that his competitive results achieved since August 1st, 1998, should be, and are disqualified. Finally, the United States Anti-Doping Agency put Lance Armstrong on a lifetime suspension from professional cycling. Ben Johnson is another example of a world renowned athlete who not only tainted his career through the use of steroids, but his character as well. Despite being born in Jamaica, Ben and his mother moved to Canada when he was only 14 years old in the pursuit of a better life for the two of them, as well as the tools in order to cultivate Bens early Talent for running. The move was deemed successful for the first time in 1987 when Ben Johnson was named “Athlete of the year” by the associated press, and a second time in early 1988 when Canada named him as their “top sports person of the year”. The downfall of Johnson’s career began the day after his world record setting 100 meter performance at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when he was caught for, and admitted to the use of performance enhancers for over a 7 year period of time. Because of his actions, he was immediately stripped of his gold medal and forced to serve a suspension from participating in track and felid events. After serving his suspension Ben Johnson returned to his sport only until he was caught again in 1993 and therefore banned from competition for the rest of his life. Ben Johnsons is now either unknown or only known because of his use of steroids and his attempts to beat the system of drug testing. His record stands; however along with it is an asterisk which highlights him as a cheater rather than a champion. It is because of Ben Johnson and athletes like him that there now so many regulations on athletes participating in sports today.
The Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative scandal of 2003 blew the whistle on steroid use by Major League Baseball players. The Bay Area business, BALCO, was accused of supplying performance-enhancing steroids to players, such as Barry Bonds, which were banned by the USADA. Since 2003, Bonds has played a large role in the unraveling of the BALCO scandal and has been under investigation by a federal grand jury regarding his testimony throughout the case. Later, in 2007, Bonds was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges and was accused of using banned anabolic steroids in the later years of his career. There have been numerous accusations against Bonds and his steroid use, however the MLB has yet to punish the player because he has not yet failed a drug test ( Sari, Ihsan, 2010). Throughout the many compelling arguments either for or against steroid use, there lies a consistent undertone in that despite the aesthetic results, the use of performance enhancers is only healthfully beneficial to the body when regulated and monitored by a certified specialist. Because of this, a paradox has emerged that in reality, the big business of sports doesn’t want to regulate the use of steroids because of how much revenue they bring into the industry. As supplement stores continue opening in every shopping center around the world, it now seems as if new supplements are being released every day which claim to produce the “bigger, stronger, faster” athlete. Also, because of how intertwined steroids are with sports now, fans have become use to seeing a certain brand of athletes on the field. Therefore, if agencies started to test and regulate all supplement use, athletes would no longer be as fast, big, or strong, which would result in a lower quality of play, and thus a loss of interest for everyone overall. In conclusion, although steroids are not necessarily harmful when taking under the strict supervision of a doctor, we believe that the legalization of anabolic steroid- use would create a world of sports that relies on drugs to perform well. We do not think that the legalization of steroids would be detrimental to athletes who chose to use them under supervision, though the drugs’ intangible effects, such as youth’s perception of athletes as role models, may be tarnished. We also believe that the legalization of steroid use would create a “quick fix” mindset for athletes and fans alike, as well as diminish the overall quality of the game. Overall, the legalization of performance-enhancing steroid would negatively change the world of sports forever.