Thesis: Sports and Steroids

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Sports and Steroids

Steroids and Their Effects

Steroids or anabolic steroids are drugs containing hormones or similar substances, which are used to increase strength and grow muscles (Donald & Talmadge 1998). When first developed in Europe in the 30s, they were used to treat under-nourished patients and induce their healing after surgery. It was in the 50s that competitive weightlifters discovered steroids to improve athletic performance. Athletes of other sports took after them, so that gradually, at least one out of15 male high school seniors in the U.S. has used the drugs. Some of them just want to increase strength and size, while others want to grow up faster to catch up with peers. Anabolic steroids can be bought over the counter in some countries, but a doctor's prescription is required in the United States (Donald & Talmadge).

Like other hormones, steroids are synthesized in the cells of an endocrine gland, secreted into the blood stream and then travel to the target organs (Scovell 2004). Their hydrophobic nature makes a muscle cell store more nitrogen, which facilitates muscle growth. They are related to the male sex hormone, androgen. Although it is illegal to keep or distribute these drugs for non-medical purposes, many professional and amateur athletes take them to improve performance. The danger appears to lie specifically in the un-regulated dosage. Athletes take as many as 100 times the prescribed or regulated dose for medical use. This exposes the users to both short-term and long-term health risks (Scovell). Abuse can distort the body's normal hormonal balance and body chemistry (Donald & Talmadge 1998). Possible consequences include heart attacks; water retention, which can lead to high blood pressure and stroke; and liver and kidney tumors; acne and arrested bone growth in adolescents; shrinking testicles, reduced sperm counts and enlarged prostates in adult males; and masculinity, certain types of cancer and birth defects in their offspring. Psychological effects include sudden mood swings, insomnia, hostility and addiction. In view of these damaging effects, major athletic competitions screen players are screed for illegal steroid use (Donald & Talmadge).

Prevalence of Nutritional Supplements and Steroids

A multi-state study was conducted to determine the prevalence of nutritional supplements and anabolic steroids among adolescent male and female students

(Hoffman et al. 2008). It also endeavored to measure the respondents' level of knowledge about nutritional supplementation and anabolic steroids. The confidential self-report survey had 3,248 student respondents from grades 8-12 in 12 States during their homeroom or physical education class. The respondents took at least one supplement at 71.2%. These were mostly multivitamins and high-energy drinks. They took these to increase their build and strength and reduce body fat or mass. More male respondents than female respondents took supplements and anabolic steroids. The respondents appeared willing to take the risks of taking these for fitness' sake or to achieve their athletic goals. The study concluded that adolescents were willing to risk health and life in order to achieve those goals. It, therefore, emphasized and recommended the greater involvement of schools, coaches and physicians in the situation. It urged them to educate students further on the risks and benefits of nutritional supplements and anabolic steroids (Hoffman et al.).

Most physicians are not too familiar with the benefits and risks of androgens, unlike with female hormones estrogen and progesterone (Brown 1996). Androgens are fundamental to normal male sexual differentiation, growth and development. Serious problems can arise. Physicians should be knowledgeable about them so he can spot the symptoms and then adequately treat the deficiency. Delayed puberty in boys often requires androgen replacement or a short regimen of testosterone to stimulate puberty. Androgens are needed by men to stimulate and maintain their sexual function. Testosterone replacement enhances sexual desire and the sexual act itself. Insufficient testosterone in older men may result in greater decrease in their bone mass and induce osteoporosis. Other than these, the use of steroids is not appropriate (Brown).

The awareness of the effect of androgens on muscle mass drove athletes to use them to improve sports performance (Brown 1996). The word got around and went far so that, in recent years, approximately one million American men and boys use them. One study revealed that 7% of high school boys are steroids users. Most of them start taking steroids earlier than 16. Androgens increase muscular strength through high-intensity exercise and diet but do not increase aerobic capacity (Brown).

The Real Problem and the Real Solution

The issue is the alarming rise in the improper use of steroids, especially by amateur athletes, not their proper use by professional athletes (Laitner 2006). Improper use produces serious side effects for non-medical reasons, particularly student athletes and other young people. All the concern about the use of enhancements centers on health, positive growth and moral issues surrounding these. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 45 high school students used steroids. But in 2003, the figure rose to 1:27 or a 3.7% increase. Most of them were "neighborhood kids" who idolized professional athletes. The chilly 3+% increase led to the filing and approval of the Clean Sports Act of 2005 to deal with the problem of steroids in professional sports. Representative Henry A. Waxman described the bill as targeting public health more than just sports. Representative Tom Davis co-sponsored the bill (Laitner).

Aside from abusive use by adolescents, there was the issue of the ease of procuring steroids (Laitner 2006). The Government Accountability Office said that steroids could be purchased without proper prescription and anonymously through the internet. This also made steroid dealers very difficult to trace, detect and prosecute. In addition, young people are the biggest internet users who had no problems securing steroids online (Laitner).

Professional athletes are among the most idolized and imitated in American culture (Laitner 2006). Little can be done about that. Sports itself serves as a model in society. The government takes the peripheral approach of uniformly regulating steroids in professional sports. It prohibits teen-agers and other young people from performance-enhancing drugs by prohibiting professionals from using them. It specifically names the four American sports leagues -- MLB, NBA, NFL and the National Hockey League -- as coming under the coverage. The rules are similar to the stringent enhancement Olympic policies for competitive professional athletics but are less strict. Its minimum testing requirements include a comprehensive and updated list of banned substances and methods; un-announced multi-year testing of players, on-and-off season tests, and an independent conduct of the tests to prevent tampering of records (Laitner).

The other provision covers penalties (Laitner 2006). A two-year ban is imposed on an intentional violation for a first offense. A lifetime prohibition is imposed for a second culpable offense. In order to insure the fair application of the policy, the Clean Sports Act authorizes the Director of the Office of the National Drug Control Policy to adjust standards to individual players or leagues as deemed appropriate. And it requires a Commission to report on the use of enhancements in high schools. On the other hand, the Government Accountability Office reports on the drugs' use by college athletes and the effectiveness of the prescribed testing procedures (Laitner).

While the Clean Sports Act promises to dramatically reduce the use of enhancements in sports, especially in professional baseball, there could be negative effects from it (Laitner 2006). It can induce initial but accidental surge of violations. It can also discourage creative discoveries on alternative ways of enhancing physical ability the creative and lawful way. The excitement of, and profitability in, professional sports may lag or dry up. The government went too fast into prohibiting amateur users without giving as much attention to the beneficial effects of the bill on professional sports (Laitner).

A better solution consists of two approaches. The first approach eradicates the use of steroids and other drug enhancements in youth and college sports (Laitner 2006). The other oversees policing efforts on professional sports leagues while allowing them to enforce their own policies. This option will likely keep teens off steroids while allowing professional leagues to expand their own rules to adopt to their professional athletes' individual creativity (Laitner).

Olympian Regina Jacobs Positive for Steroids Use

Olympian champion Regina Jacobs, 40 and a four-time Olympian, tested positive for a new designer steroid (Faraudo 2003). Tests on America's premier middle-distance runner turned positive for tetrahydrogestrinone or THG. Anti-doping agencies would wait for Jacobs's sample B. And her appeal before filing formal charges against her. If found guilty, current track and field rules would ban her from the sport for two years. At her present age, a suspension would end her sports career, decorated with 25 indoor and outdoor national titles. She inspired many for her longevity and productivity. Coach Frank Gagliano of the Nike Farm Team post collegiate noted that a guilty verdict would make people remember Jacobs' guilt instead of her shining sports record (Faraudo).

The Hard Way or through Steroids

Baseball is singled out among all the sports in the steroid issue. A lot of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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