The Performance-Enhancing Drug Controversy Essay, Research Paper
Performance-enhancing drugs are a topic in today?s society which is currently under hot
debate. Performance-enhancing drugs are substances which are used to stimulate certain
areas of the body to make an athlete excel in a certain event. The most common form of
performance-enhancing drugs are called steroids. According to Hank Nuwer in his book
Steroids, steroids are ?…compounds that are necessary for the well-being of many living
creatures, including human beings. These include sex hormones, bile acids, and
cholesterol? (15). Steroids are used in the medical field to treat many ailments, and this
use is not the use which is currently under controversy. The medical reasons are to treat
anemia, burns, asthma, anorexia, intestinal disorders, and much more (Nuwer 15). These
types of steroids are called cortical steroids.
But the other use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs is that they are
used by athletes who wish to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors, or use them
to keep up with the competition since so many athletes are using these types of drugs.
These drugs are taken in a variety of ways. The two most common ways are to be taken
orally in pill form, or injected into the body with a needle. Just a few of these
performance-enhancing drugs are Nelvar, Deca-Durabolin, Anavar, Stanzolol, Dianabol,
and Anadrol-50 (Nuwer 17). These drugs are much more dangerous than the legal
performance-enhancing drugs because the athletes take much, much more than the
recommended doses that would be prescribed by a doctor. They feel that the more pills or
injections they take, the stronger, faster, and better they will be when competing, but this
is not always true.
Performance-enhancing drugs are relatively unstudied today. There are not many
known fact about performance-enhancing drugs and steroids. But, there is some evidence
that shows some of these substances may be dangerous to one?s health. Although there is
yet to be certain and definite proof that performance-enhancing drugs and steroids may be
harmful, there have been some studies which indicate that they can be dangerous. These
studies have shown that steroids may have been the reason or a major factor which caused
liver damage, cardiomyopathy (a worn out heart), jaundice, peliosis hepatis (blood-filled
cysts in the liver), and adverse affects on both the cardiovascular system and on the
reproductive system (Meer 69). These products have also been linked to causing some
types of cancer. Because of these hazards, many performance-enhancing drugs have been
banned in certain national and international sports, such as the NFL, NBA, and the
Olympics. This does not mean that athletes participating in these sports do not take them,
Athletics is the major area in which performance-enhancing drugs are used.
Although some people use them just to try to make themselves look bigger and better,
most people use them to help them to either keep up with competition in athletic events,
or use them to beat the competition by an unfair advantage, usually because they want to
achieve fame or want to win some sort of cash reward. Unfortunately, it is not just the
major athletes in pro sports and in the Olympics who use these drugs.
Performance-enhancing drugs are used in all levels of competition today, whether it be in
the Olympics, in the pros, in colleges, or even in high schools. Athletes see other people
taking these drugs and winning events and breaking records, and they want to do the
same. Also, many of these athletes are misinformed about the dangers of
performance-enhancing drugs. But on the other hand, many other athletes are aware of
the consequences and dangers, yet they are stubborn and take them anyway.
The Olympics have long been known for having athletes who take steroids. For
years now, certain countries such as the former nation of East Germany and the former
U.S.S.R, as well as China, have been known to, or at least it has been highly suspected,
that they contained a numerous amount of athletes who have taken
performance-enhancing drugs leading up to and during Olympic competition. Currently,
there is an investigation involving the coaches and athletes from East Germany who
competed in the 1976 Olympics. As Don Kardong reports in Runner?s World:
A German investigator–searching for evidence for a criminal trial of four
coaches and two doctors accused of giving steroids and other
performance-enhancing drugs to unsuspecting athletes–had discovered 10
volumes of secret Stasi police files documenting the East German doping
program. Each athlete was coded by number, and among them was #62.
Waldemar Cierpinski. (72)
Waldemar Cierpinski was a runner who won the marathon race in the 1976
Olympics and thus pushed Don Kardong to come in fourth place instead of third, making
him miss his chance at fame and fortune, and of course that coveted bronze medal.
Should the IOC (International Olympic Committee) take the gold medal away from
Cierpinski and move the second, third, and fourth place finishers up one spot? Will
Kardong finally have the feeling of getting that medal? Is it too little too late for him?
How can the IOC possibly compensate for the years of disappointment that the fourth,
third, and second place finishers felt? These questions are what the IOC have to try to
find the answers to. They also have to decide how they are going to handle similar
situations which are bound to occur in the future.
Another example of cheating in the Olympics by taking banned substances is
Canadian Ben Johnson. He was disqualified from the 1988 Olympics after winning the
gold in the 100 meter dash because he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs
which were illegal to use. This eventually ruined his great career, his reputation, and his
legacy was forever tarnished.
The sad thing about the Olympics is that the number of people caught using
performance-enhancing drugs does not even come close to the number of people who
actually use them. Because doctors and IOC officials know very little about the many
types of performance-enhancing drugs and steroids, they have yet to come up with good
ways of detecting them. According to Michael Bamberger and Don Yaeger of Sports
Illustrated, the only ways the IOC can test right now is to use urine tests, a gas
chromatograph mass spectrometer, and a high-resolution mass spectrometer (HRMS), but
there are many ways to bypass all three of these tests (61). This is because the pushers of
these drugs are smarter than both the people who run the drug tests, and the drug tests
themselves. They know how to get past these systems, and that is why
performance-enhancing drugs are so prevalent in today?s society. First of all, even if some
athletes were tested positive by the HRMS, the IOC is very reluctant to act because the
HRMS is relatively untested and they are fearful of lawsuits. Second of all, athletes can
stop using some performance-enhancing drugs a short time before a meet, sometimes as
little as ten days, in order that the athlete will still be stronger and better, but also will pass
the drug tests because the chemicals will be out of his/her system. Also, Bamberger and
Yaeger note that, ?The sophisticated athlete who wants to take drugs has switched to
things we can?t test for…To be caught is not easy; it only happens, says Emil Vrijman,
director of the Netherlands? doping control center, when an athlete is either incredibly
sloppy, incredibly stupid, or both? (62).
Another way to deceive drug tests is to use special performance-enhancing drugs
which are made especially for one person to do one specific duty. These drugs do not
have the same chemical parts as the ones the IOC tests for, and therefore these athletes are
not usually caught. But, these drugs are extremely expensive, sometimes costing the
athletes up to $1,500 a month (Bamberger and Yaeger 64).
There are many side affects which can result from the use of
performance-enhancing drugs and steroids. For men, some of these side affects can
include shrinkage of the testicles, a reduced sperm count, baldness, the development of
breasts, depression, extreme aggression, impotence, tumors, cancer, and death. With all
these adverse side affects, why would athletes continue to use such dangerous materials?
That is one question no one can yet answer.
Performance-enhancing drugs are not solely used by men in these types of
activities. Women also have been known to use them, especially Chinese women. For
example, there was quite a controversy in the recent National Games in Shanghai, China.
According to Phillip Whitten of The New Republic, ?…in the weight-lifting arena alone,
Chinese women eclipsed every world record in all nine weight classes…in some
weight-lifting events, the old marks were passed by 60 pounds or more–in a sport which
usually measures world record improvements in one- or two-pound increments? (10).
Also in the same article, Whitten describes how, ?…previously unranked Chinese women
set two world records, eight Asian records, and clocked the world?s best time in eight of
thirteen individual events? (10). It almost cannot be denied that these women were doped
up at the time of this particular event, but there was no way to prove it by drug tests,
because it was already too late. According to Whitten, FINA (swimming?s international
governing body) only conducts unannounced drug tests on athletes in the top 25, and
many of the Chinese athletes were above that mark, yet still two of them broke records
(10). Thus, almost all the officials basically know that these records are false, yet there is
nothing that can be done at this point.
Another example of the cheating by women by using performance-enhancing drugs
occurred just a month later at the Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan. There, a surprise
drug test was administered and eleven Chinese athletes tested positive to DHT, or
dihydrotestosterone (Whitten 11). Thus the whole nation was suspended from the Pan
Pacific Championships in 1995. We can only infer that even more women are currently
using these performance-enhancing drugs.
When women use performance-enhancing drugs, there can be many, many side
affects. These may include the growth of facial and/or body hair, changes in or cessation
of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, a deepened voice, their bodies may
become more masculine, balding and breast shrinkage may occur, women can lose body
fat, and they may cause women to become more hungry. These are in addition to the side
affects which are shared by both sexes which may include high blood pressure, water
retention, depression, cholesterol problems, septic shock, diarrhea, continuous bad breath,
heart disease, yellowing of the eyes or skin (due to liver problems), insomnia, fetal damage
for pregnant women, aggressive behavior, AIDS (from the use of needles shared when
injecting performance-enhancing drugs) and of course, death (Facts About Anabolic
Steroids). Yet, women are still willing to risk their health and their lives just in order to
win a competition.
The issue concerning teens and performance-enhancing drugs is a rapidly growing
one. According to Nuwer in his book Steroids, almost 66% of male high school seniors
have used anabolic steroids at least one point during their short lives so far (65). Also,
Nuwer says that ?…medical researchers believe that between one and three million youths
and adults have taken anabolic steroids in one form or another specifically to enhance their
looks or athletic performances? (61). Unfortunately, this number has been growing every
year since this study was taken in the late 1980?s. And it is very possible that taking
performance-enhancing drugs at such a young age can even bring worse side affects than
it can to fully grown adults. For example, some of the known side affects include stunted
growth, reduction in bone growth, tendon and muscle pulls (because they have to hold up
more weight and have not been adjusted to it yet), and death.
How do teenagers find out about steroids and performance-enhancing drugs?
Very easily. They see and read news all the time which contains both legal and illegal
performance-enhancing drugs and they usually show the athletes taking them winning their
particular event. This gives youngsters the mindset that they will be able to succeed much
easier by using these types of products, and also gives them the bad example that cheating
is fine as long as you can get away with it.
Also, legal performance-enhancing drugs such as creatine and androstenedione,
which may also have adverse side affects, and both of which are used by pro baseball
player Mark McGwire, are seen as drugs that help a person to become stronger and better,
without any of the bad results in which some illegal performance-enhancing drugs and
steroids can bring. ?Young athletes have heard and seen that established athletes whom
they admire use them [performance-enhancing drugs], and they want to follow the same
victorious path their heroes have trod? (Nuwer 12). According to an article written in the
October 1998 issue of People Weekly, ?…sales of the steroid [androstenedione) are
expected to top $100 million this year, up from $5 million in 1997? (144). Many of these
sales will be from younger athletes competing at the high school level, unaware of the
dangers of this legal substance. One can make a good comparison between cigarettes and
legal performance-enhancing drugs and legal steroids. This is that they can both be
extremely harmful to one?s health, yet they are both legal and in great demand.
According to a New York Times report in the Providence Journal Bulletin,
?…175,000 teenage girls in the United States have reported taking anabolic steroids at
least once within a year of the time surveyed–a rise of 100% since 1991? (A12). This
compares to the estimated 325,000 teenage boys who currently use steroids (Providence
Today, the standards set upon performance-enhancing drugs and steroids in the
athletic world are very loose. Many organizations such as MLB, the NBA, the NFL and
so on have little, if any, standard drug testing for illegal substances. Although many
organizations do outlaw some of these substances, their disregard for caring about the
athletes? health by not enforcing drug tests shows that they care rather about making
money than they do about the well being of their participants. They would rather bring in
money from sponsors than expose the great number of people who are using banned
performance-enhancing drugs. Also, even when drug tests are administered, usually for
international competitions such as the Olympics, the tests are so basic that it is simple to
bypass the test and get a negative, even if that athlete had been taking illegal
performance-enhancing drugs or steroids.
One action that these organizations must take in the near future is to spend a lot of
time and money on the study of performance-enhancing drugs and steroids. Thus, they
would be able to come up with better ways to be able to test athletes. These regulations
are needed not only to protect the athletes, but also to bring some integrity back to the
world of sports. World records are being broken left and right by people who have had
little respect for others. These athletes care only about themselves and do not have enough discipline to train and work hard, the honest way.
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