Has the Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs of Professional Athletes Negatively Impacted Athletes and Sports? Term Paper

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Sports - Steroids in Sports


Pharmaceutical performance enhancement in sports and military combat has existed about as long as recorded history. In many cases, ancient athletes and warriors used some of the same stimulants and medicinal herbs commonly at issue today in connection with professional sports. In principle, it is immediately obvious why drugs taken immediately before competition to provide a momentary advantage would be anathema to the spirit of athletic competition (Bettman 2008; Stern 2008). Likewise, it is perfectly understandable to prevent irresponsible drug use by minors.

It is not immediately apparent, logically, why professional athletes should be prohibited from using drugs that enhance performance only indirectly, such as in conjunction with long-term training. It may be that the negative impact of PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS in sports is attributable more to cultural perspective, unjustified moral criticism, and corporate financial interests than to the drugs directly.

Principal Argument:

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The modern sophistication of nutrition technology has blurred the line between natural and artificial and the relative dangers associated with medically-supervised anabolic steroid use are far less serious than those associated with many commonly used medications, not to mention chronic smoking of any kind. The medical risks of anabolic steroid more comparable to some others willingly accepted by athletes as well as by military soldiers and law enforcement professionals.

The vast majority of documented cases of serious medical complications associated with steroid use involve individuals using many times the highest dosages ever prescribed for responsible purposes (Bahrke, et al. 1990) and with long-term use.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Has the Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs of Professional Athletes Negatively Impacted Athletes and Sports? Assignment

Conversely, low doses are now considered so benign that they are often prescribed, legally, for hormone supplementation in geriatric males in the same manner as their female counterparts have received estrogen supplements for decades. Low doses of anabolic steroids have also been developed for use as a male contraceptive (McCallum 2008). In that light, it becomes more difficult to object to the open use of performance enhancing drugs (including steroids) by professional athletes in conjunction with appropriate medical supervision.

Background and History of Anabolic Steroids in Sports:

Synthetic human testosterone, the first anabolic steroid was developed in the early 20th century and originally intended to promote tissue growth for burn victims. Almost immediately, their potential for increasing physical size and strength, muscular endurance, and aggressiveness lead to their use for military purposes in World War II Germany (Jacobson 2006).

During the Cold War Era, East Germany and later, the Soviet Union, exploited all imaginable forms of pharmaceutical experimentation into potential performance enhancement. By the 1980s, anabolic steroids were widely used throughout strength sports and regulations rarely enforced until 1990, when synthetic human testosterone and other hormones became Schedule III drugs requiring stricter controls. Nevertheless, performance enhancing drug use -- much like recreational drug use in professional sports -- was ignored, excused, and minimized; time and again, contemporary high profile athletes are identified as having used illegal performance enhancing drugs. Some of the highest profile professional athletes have been implicated in drug scandals and hundreds of professional athletes and thousands of collegiate, high school, and recreational athletes emulate the professionals. Most recently, Hollywood actors have been implicated in steroid use for cosmetic purposes (McCallum 2008). Needless to say, some of the most disturbing elements of this cultural reality are steroid use by adolescents.

Pharmaceutical Enhancement in Sports -- Medical Issues and Concerns:

Steroids are associated with certain relatively uncommon medical and behavioral risks in general, as well as with other more common but less serious side effects. The most serious potential risks such as cancer, stroke, and heart attacks seem to be associated primarily with very heavy continual use. Both anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that serious medical complications are relatively rare among moderate users over relatively short periods of time (Marcario 2005). By far, anabolic steroid use by minors (and by females of any age) is the most appropriate and legitimate medical concern over steroid use. Adolescence is already a difficult transitional period of social development marked by hormonal surges, mood swings, and personal insecurities and self doubts. Introduction of supplemental synthetic testosterone at this time has been repeatedly associated with tragedy (Marcario 2005).

Predictably, as steroid use and other forms of chemical performance enhancers came to be associated more and more with high-profile celebrity athletes, their popularity among American high school students skyrocketed, as depicted in the two graph http://www.rimrock.org/i/graph_steroid.gif

* Women also, are at much greater risk of irreversible medical consequences from exposure to synthetic male hormones, such as permanently enlarged clitorises, male pattern baldness, and a permanently altered vocal tone (Mayo Clinic 2006). In males, the most common side effects are severe acne (depicted below left), and gynecomastia (depicted below right). The latter refers to the abnormal development of female breast tissue as an indirect consequence of male steroid use. The consequence is indirect only in that it is attributable to the temporary reduction in natural testosterone output caused by the introduction of synthetic testosterone. This is the same mechanism exploited in connection with male birth control that suppresses natural testosterone and sperm production simultaneously (Mayo Clinic).

In males, anabolic steroids are also associated with side effects in the nature of accelerated male pattern baldness in those genetically predisposed to losing their hair, deepening of the voice, acne, reduced sperm count, and testicular atrophy. However, whereas these side effects are generally irreversible in females, typically, they are completely reversible in males. Gynecomastia may resolve spontaneously after cessation of anabolic supplementation upon the eventual resumption of normal natural male hormone production; other times, it requires surgical removal (McCallum 2008). Behavioral changes attributed to steroid use are not often observed in medically appropriate dosages (Bahrke, et al. 1990), but both anecdotal and empirical evidence clearly suggests that high doses of anabolic steroids have contributed to violent outbursts, suicide, and in one of the most notorious cases, the double murder-suicide perpetrated in June of 2007 by professional wrestler Chris Benoit.

Pharmaceutical Enhancement in Sports -- Ethical Issues and Concerns:

The main argument against the use of steroids in professional sports is that it confers an unfair advantage to some athletes over others. In principle, performance enhancing drugs that provide a momentary artificial advantage during competition is no different from greasing a pitched baseball. But there is no drug that instantly transforms athletic performance, or that suddenly adds velocity or accuracy to the throwing motion or to the swing of a bat. Nevertheless, steroids taken in conjunction with training allow greater strength gains and muscle maintenance, endurance, reduced recuperation time, and speedier recovery from certain types of injuries (Green 1996).

Prohibition on steroids in amateur sports, including college sports, is appropriate for the same reasons that amateur athletic organizations and NCAA-member educational institutions impose other restrictions on practice time, equipment regulations, and rules.

However, in light of the tremendous extremes or regimen, diet, deprivations, injury, and practiced resistance to pain and fatigue endured by professional athletes (and soldiers) in high-level training, pharmaceutical performance enhancement by adult professionals seems to fall much closer to other extreme behaviors that we already tolerate in athletes.

Relatively recently, ex-NFL players of earlier generations began exhibiting high rates of early-onset senile dementia including Alzheimer's disease. Sophisticated brain imaging available today reveals the extent of the damage caused by years of violent football collisions and repeated concussions before concussions were recognized as a serious injury (Schwarz 2007). Today, the speed and size of professional football players (in particular) exposes them to comparable cumulative injuries often likened to subjecting one's self to a 30-MPH car crash dozens of times a day in practice and in competition. In general, retired NFL players live considerably shorter lives than non-

NFL players (Green 1996). If one were to rate their comparative risks of catastrophic injury and serious long-term health consequences, anabolic steroid use would probably rate lower than both cigarette smoking and playing professional football in the first place.

Nevertheless, every major professional athletic governing body has implemented stricter rules prohibiting pharmaceutical performance enhancement, especially steroids, but to some observers, this appears to be motivated, at least in large part, by financial considerations corresponding to the effect of negative public relations and continued fan interest and major corporate sponsorship (Staudohar 2005). In fact, it is an undeniable feature of modern American social culture that professional athletes are admired and emulated by young sports fans, a phenomenon that is widely exploited by corporate advertisers. While this makes perfect logical sense from a business perspective, it hardly qualifies as a moral principle or ethical value.

Certainly, young people do emulate celebrities including professional athletes, and in that respect, they are so-called "role models." But the particular roles they sometimes model, in general, are not necessarily consistent with anyone whose conduct should be emulated. It is hard to justify prohibiting the use of steroids by professional athletes on this basis either, because parents are the appropriate role models for their children, not strangers who happen to be accomplished athletes.

It seems incongruous to allow geriatric males who… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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