Term Paper: Drugs in Sports Steroid Abuse

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Drugs in Sports

Steroid abuse has become a major problem in sports. The deaths of athletes like Eduardo Gory Guerrero have drawn attention to the real physical dangers of performance-enhancing drugs. Baseball players like Mark McGuire and Jason Giambi have made performance-enhancing drugs seem as common as Gatorade in their sport. According to CBS News, three NFL professional football players with the Carolina Panthers Jeff Mitchell, Todd Sauerbaun, and former Panther Todd Stuessie filled steroids prescriptions before they played in the 2004 Super Bowl. Proliferation of performance-enhancing drugs is problematic, causing increasing numbers of athletes to resort to drugs in order to remain competitive.

Performance-enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids and human growth hormone are tempting for athletes whose careers depend on outplaying their competitors. However, their use has become so widespread as to taint the integrity of athletics. The more common performance-enhancing drugs become, the likely athletes will feel pressured to use them to remain competitive. Abuse can cause health problems and moreover, using performance-enhancing drugs is illegal and banned from most sports. Athletes who use them jeopardize their careers and play against the rules. Performance-enhancing drugs destroy the health of athletes, harm the integrity of all sports, and produces cheating; therefore, they should be barred from all sports.

Many of the most commonly used performance-enhancing drugs are synthetic versions of naturally-occurring human hormones. Anabolic steroids are widely used as performance-enhancers. Known as anabolic-androgenic steroids, they are synthetic derivatives of the naturally occurring male anabolic hormone testosterone. The anabolic effects are responsible for the muscle mass-building effects, while the androgenic effects are the ones responsible for promoting male traits such as facial hair (Mayo Clinic 2006). Testosterone's natural androgenic effects trigger the maturing of the male reproductive system in puberty, including the growth of body hair and the deepening of the voice. The hormone's anabolic effect helps the body retain dietary protein, which aids in the development of muscles. Anabolic steroids have legitimate medical uses, as they can help the body repair damaged tissue, adjust for abnormally low levels of testosterone, or build lost muscle mass. Steroids can also help prevent or eliminate anemia. Occasionally, anabolic steroids are prescribed to treat osteoporosis or to treat women with breast cancer ("Anabolic Steroids").

However, athletes who use anabolic steroids use them not to treat medical conditions but for their tendency to improve athletic performance or increase muscle bulk. "While there are various types of steroids with varying degrees of anabolic and androgenic properties, it's the anabolic property of steroids that lures athletes," says Dr. Wadler. "They take them to primarily increase muscle mass and strength," (cited in "Anabolic Steroids"). Some athletes believe that using steroids will give them that "winning edge," in developing their power and strength, and increase recovery from heavy workouts. Others may take them for aesthetic purposes, to improve their physique for body building competitions or to bolster self-esteem (Yesalis, 1998; Mottram, 1996) Users can either take performance-enhancing drugs orally in the form of pills or inject the drugs with a needle.

According to Fuller and LaFountain (1987) found that athletes rationalized their use by trying to justify that using steroids caused no harm either to themselves or to others. Yet many users gradually increase their doses over time, "pyramiding" their intake; others resort to "megadoses" for quick results. Pyramiding and megadosing may hasten the onset of undesireable side-effects. Similarly, athletes who mix steroids with other drugs, either legitimate or illegal, risk seriously damaging their health and well-being.

Some of the adverse side-effects of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs include nausea, muscle cramps, vomiting, severe acne, sleeplessness, anxiety, anger, and other minor effects. More serious side-effects may include heart disease, high blood pressure, liver damage, cancer, urinary and bowel problems. Anabolic steroids may also cause an increase in the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) "bad" cholesterol and corresponding reduction in the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) "good" cholesterol (Mayo Clinic). Both men and women are susceptible to these side-effects. Both men and women may also develop psychological side effects such as increased aggression, depression, and drug dependency.

However, men and women do react to hormonal drugs differently. When man take anabolic steroids their body may stop producing testosterone, leading to conditions like shrunken testicles. Similarly, the male body may react to overuse of anabolic steroids with breast enlargement and raised voice. Men may also experience baldness or sexual side-effects. Excess testosterone in women may lead to reduced breast size, enlarged clitoris, increased hair growth or baldness, increased appetite, or deepened voice.

Although fatalities from performance-enhancing drugs are relatively rare, they occur enough that these drugs should be banned from sports. On November 13, 2005, Eduardo Gory Guerrero died from acute heart failure and arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease linked to his anabolic steroid abuse. Guerrero was a World Wrestling Entertainment professional wrestler. Over ten years earlier, Denver Broncos defensive player Lyle Martin Alzado died from brain cancer believed to have been brought on by his excessive steroid use. Ken Caminiti, once the MVP for the National League, died of coronary artery disease and although the death was officially ruled an "accident," he had been using a dangerous combination of drugs that "weakened his heart," ("Drug Tie in Baseball Star's Death"). Like many other athletes, Caminiti had also used other drugs in conjunction with performance-enhancing substances including opiates, alcohol, painkillers, and cocaine.

Alzado, Caminiti, and Guerrero prove that abuse of steroids can be fatal, prematurely ending promising careers and destroying lives. Before he died, Alzado also mentioned how steroid abuse affected his mental health. "I became very violent on the field and off it. I did things only crazy people do. Once a guy sideswiped my car and I beat the hell out of him," ("Lyle Alzado"). Athletes who choose to inject the drugs also put themselves at risk for contracting contagious diseases like Hepatitis or HIV even if the steroids themselves did not cause harm.

In addition to affecting friends and family, these deaths have a huge impact on teammates, coaching staff, and the entire professional league. Because of their devastating effects, performance-enhancing drugs have been effectively banned from most sports. Testing should be done throughout the year, at completely random intervals and without any prior notice. However, drug testing is not regulated throughout all sports; each league administers its own anti-doping regulations. Athletes who know in advance they will be tested can easily avoid penalties and continue their habit, to the detriment of their health and of the integrity of the sport. Therefore, sports organizations are toughening their testing procedures as well as the penalties for failing drug tests. Current penalties for failing drug tests including fines and banishments from the sport. The tests also detect masking agents athletes can use to disguise their use of performance-enhancing drugs. Exceptions are not made for athletes who were using steroids for medical purposes (Harris).

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is the organization primarily responsible for testing Olympic athletes. In the event of a failed test, the USADA can will inform the athlete as well as the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the U.S.A. Track and Field (USATF), and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The USADA Review Board can also recommend that the case be officially prosecuted as a doping violation, with significant consequences for the athlete's career. First offenses may warrant a warning up to a two-year ban. Second offenses often result in a lifetime ban. The athlete can contest the findings before an arbitration board, but if the appeal fails the ban takes effect immediately.

Ensuring absolute fairness in sport is impossible. However, performance-enhancing drugs are against the rules of the game. Just as a player cannot argue with the rules on the field, a player can also not argue with the ban on drugs. Whether or not performance-enhancing drugs offer… [END OF PREVIEW]

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