Along time ago when an athlete, of any age, had an incredible talent to play a sport, no one would have suspected that the person may be taking illegal chemicals to boost their performance. Now, on the other hand, many people are beginning to raise an eye brow about the true talent of many athletes. With so much in the news about different athletes, both young and old, using illegal anabolic steroids to help their performance it is hard to say who has true talent and who is just plain cheating.
In World War II, anabolic steroids had been given to Hitler’s troop to increase their aggression. The illegal use of these drugs to enhance athletic ability has been prevalent since the fifties. The Russians were the first athletes to use anabolic steroids in official competitions in the 1960’s in the Olympic Games (Sturmi, 281).
Anabolic and androgenic steroids are the synthetic derivatives of the naturally occurring male anabolic hormone testosterone. Both anabolic and androgenic have origins from Greek: anabolic meaning “to build” and androgenic meaning “to masculinizing” (Narducci 288). Testosterone’s natural androgenic consequences and effects trigger the maturing of the male reproductive system in puberty, comprising the growth of body hair and the deepening of the voice. The hormone’s anabolic effect helps the development of muscles. Although there are many types of steroids with varying degrees of anabolic and androgenic properties, it’s the anabolic property that lures athletes, primarily to increase muscle mass and strength (Narducci 295).
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Steroid use is beginning to become a common thing for professional athletes. Any sport where speed and size is needed steroids can be a great advantage to these athletes. Recently, the media has opened the public’s eye to the steroid abuse in major league baseball. David Wells, pitcher for the New York Yankees, claims that up to 40 percent of major leaguers use steroids and that the drugs are readily available in baseball clubhouses (Seattle Times). The Seattle Times also quoted Wells saying that, “As of right now, I’d estimate 25 to 40 percent of major leaguers are juiced. But that number’s rising fast.”
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Ken Caminiti admitted to taking steroids while playing with the San Diego Padres. Caminiti stated that up to half of the league uses illegal substances (Washington Post). Another former player, Jose Canseco said that he believed over 85% of major league ball players use anabolic steroids (Washington Post).
It’s not only the baseball player or weightlifter or sprinter who may be using anabolic steroids. Over the years the drugs have spread from the weight lifter to bodybuilders to elite athletes to high school students. Scott reported that 6.6% of male high school seniors use steroids or have used them in the past (198). Of the users a large majority had begun to take steroids before they were 17 years old. The primary reason given that these people take steroids was to improve athletic performance (Scott, 203).
The pressures of performing well on the field in high school often drive many youngsters to using steroids. Many of these young athletes believe if they use the drugs and perform well that they may receive a college scholarship and even into professional sports (Terney, 99). In 22% of anabolic steroid users the primary reason for participating in school sponsored sports was to earn a college scholarship (Terney, 103). Those who participate in sports in order to get a scholarship or get into professional sports may be more willing to compromise themselves and try these illegal drugs. The pressure to win placed on these athletes by parents, coaches, and friends may also influence their decision to use steroids (Terney, 103).
Along with taking these illegal anabolic steroids come many health hazards. Psychological effects such as erratic mood swings, irrational behavior, increased aggressiveness, irritability, depression, and a dependency for the drugs are just few that take place (Narducci, 290). Among the physical adverse effects to occur, acne is the most prevalent, especially among young users. Anabolic steroids may also affect normal liver function, causing jaundice to occur. Athletes may also experience injuries to their joints and tendons due to lack of strength in these areas and the rapid increase in strength by the muscle (Narducci, 291). Steroids also increase the risk of heart disease and increase the chance of liver cancer. Males may develop gynecomastia, growing female breasts and experience shrinkage of the testicles (Narducci, 292).
According to Terney steroid use by adolescent has been shown to halt growth prematurely. The steroids can close the growth centers in these young people’s bones and will not allow them to reopen (105). The young athlete in turn ends up being much shorter than they were actually supposed to be.
Many professional sports committees have begun to take action against the abuse of steroids and all other drugs. Many agencies such as the NFL have taken steps to test athletes for steroid use (Seattle Times). Although tests are performed on these athletes, there are ways of getting around them. Many of the athletes are not tested year-round, so many use steroids in the off-season to give them a boost over others (Seattle Times).
The ATLAS Program ha been started in Oregon to try and prevent young student from using steroids. ATLAS stands for Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids and consists of 50-minute classroom sessions led by coaches and counselors (Scott, 203). The program is mainly focused on the athletes of the participating high schools and so far has had a major impact (Scott, 203).
With the size of today’s athletes constantly growing, so will the use of anabolic steroids. Whether different athletes use them to gain advancement over others or just use them to keep up, steroid use in all sports is on the increase. This trend is not only danger to their bodies, but is also dangerous those around them.
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