Steroids And Athletes Essay Research Paper What

Steroids And Athletes Essay, Research Paper

What kind of role model is Mark McGwire? Many people are familiar with his

seventy homeruns in one season, but do they know that he has been using

androstenedione, a type of steroid that boosts testosterone levels? While it is

perfectly legal in the United States and in the major leagues, it sends the

wrong health message to athletes of every age. If young adults take

androstenedione, or any other steroid, they may regret it for the rest of their

lives. Artificially high levels of testosterone have been shown to permanently

damage the heart, trigger liver failure, and stunt a teenager?s growth (Gorman

21-22). All are too great of a price for any sport. What it all comes down to is

that we need to educate both ourselves and all intercollegiate athletes about

the risks involved with steroid use. Anabolic-androgenic steroids are chemical

derivatives of the male sex hormones. Anabolic refers to the constructive or

building-up process of the body?s metabolism. Androgen refers to male-life or

masculinizing characteristics. There are also two other types of steroids:

estrogenic or corticosteroids. Estrogenic steroids produce female or feminizing

characteristics, and corticosteroids originate in the cortex of the adrenal

glands and have a shrinking effect. The latter is used to treat tissue stress,

reduce inflammation, and to ease pain (Ringhofer 174). Users take steroids in

cycles lasting six to twelve weeks or more. Stacking, or the use of more than

one type of steroid, helps to maximize strength gains, minimize side effects,

and avoid detection. To build size, strength, and speed, athletes often use 10

to 100 times the medical dosage (Yesalis xxv). Anabolic-androgens can be taken

either by mouth, by injection, or, more recently, by skin creams or patches

(Cowart 25). The two main reasons that athletes use steroids are to improve

athletic performance and to improve their appearance. In 1985, Anderson and

McKeag did the first study of college athletes correlated with steroid use. They

interviewed 2039 male and female athletes and discovered much new information.

Nine percent of football players used anabolic-androgen steroids. Other male

sports included track and field (4%), baseball (4%), tennis (4%), and basketball

(3%). The only women?s sport associated with steroid use was swimming, in

which 1% were users. Five percent of Division I athletes were users in 1985, as

well as 4% of D-II and 2% of D-III athletes. The same study was repeated in

1991, in which 2282 athletes were questioned. Overall, steroid use slightly

increased, especially since three women?s sports became associated with

steroid use. Swimming remained at 1%, but one percent of basketball players and

track and field athletes also admitted to using the drugs. For men?s sports,

the figures are the following: football (10%), track and field (4%), baseball

(2%), basketball (2%), and tennis (2%). Five percent of both Division I and II

athletes admitted to using steroids, as well as 4% of D-III athletes (Yesalis

60). Since then, steroid use has decreased in Division I sports, but increased

among females. Steroid use by adolescent girls in the US is low but significant

(Cowart 61). The use of anabolic-androgenic steroids can lead to some cosmetic

side effects. First, they have an effect of body hair. Body hair patterns are

steroid hormone dependent. Normal anabolic-androgenic steroid use can lead to an

increase in facial hair growth and a gradual recession of the hairline. Balding

is accelerated with long-term administration to normal individuals with the

balding gene. Androgens increase sebaceous gland size and secretion rates, which

can result in acne. Relatively weak androgens can increase sebum production and

skin lipid cholesterol content also. Lipid cholesterol content appears at peak

levels in the sebum excretion after three or four weeks of androgen

administration (Yesalis 115-116). Gynecomastia, the development of abnormal

breast tissue in males, ?occurs in men when estrogen levels increase or

androgen levels decrease relative to the amount of estrogen present? (Yesalis

116). Many other side effects occur that are not visible. Increase in appetite,

energy, or aggressiveness, and a more rapid recovery from strenuous workouts may

be some of the first to appear. Anabolic-androgenic steroids can affect the

liver and cardiovascular and reproductive systems. Liver function can be

damaged, resulting in jaundice, blood-filled cysts, and benign and malignant

tumors. An increase in blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure can lead to

early development of heart disease, which can increase the risk of heart attacks

and strokes. For males, production of naturally occurring hormones may be

increased, which can result in shrinking testes, low sperm count, and

infertility. In females, male-like characteristics may appear, such as broader

backs, wider shoulders, thicker waists, flatter chests, more body and facial

hair, and deeper voices. The clitoris may enlarge, and menstrual cycles may

become irregular or stop completely (Ringhofer 175). The central nervous system

can also be affected by anabolic-androgenic steroids. An increase in mental

awareness, elevation in mood, improvement in memory and concentration, and a

reduction of sensations of fatigue can all be partly related to the stimulatory

effects on the central nervous system (Yesalis 163). When individuals

discontinue use of steroids, their size and strength diminish, often

dramatically. These effects motivate renewed use (Yesalis 171). Physical

dependence on steroids, or any other drug, is characterized by symptoms of

withdrawal (Yesalis 197). Dependent users are usually heavy users that more than

likely began taking steroids before the age of sixteen. They complete more and

longer cycles of use, combine multiple anabolic steroid drugs simultaneously,

and use injectable anabolic steroids. In addition, they are more likely to

perceive peers as steroid users. Dependence can occur within nine to twelve

months after initial use. Severe dependence is marked by an excess of dependency

symptoms and social dysfunction. Withdrawal from anabolic-androgenic steroids

can be broken down into two phases. The first phase may begin and end in the

first week. It is characterized by increased pulse rate and blood pressure,

chills, goose bumps, nausea, headaches, and dizziness. The individual is often

anxious and irritable. In the second phase, which may begin in the first week

and last for months, the person shows depressive symptoms and has cravings (Yesalis

205-6). The most critical task of prevention programs is to target the risk

factors of anabolic steroid dependence or abuse, which I hope that I have made

clear. Prevention programs must address the broader cultural context, especially

in the U.S., that places high values on physical attractiveness and on winning

competitions. Successful programs address these influences by providing

alternatives for managing them. Treatment is needed when the severity of

dependence hinders the user from stopping safely on his or her own. The major

goal of treatment is not only, abstinence from anabolic steroids, but also

restoration of health (Yesalis 208). As coaches of possible anabolic-androgenic

steroid users, I suggest three ways to educate your players. First, give a clear

message that any non-medical use of steroids and other performance- or

appearance-altering drugs is illegal and harmful to physical and emotional

health (Ringhofer 138). Promote the importance of participation, fun, and fair

play in sports instead of ?win-at-all-costs? values. Lastly, point out that

the physiques of body builders, and other role models like McGwire, do not

represent healthy or necessarily attractive ideals for young people to follow.

Coaches need to accept the responsibility of making their players aware of the

dangers of steroid use. If they do not, then who will?


Cowart, Virgina. The Steroids Game. Chicago: Human Kinetics Publishers, 1998.

Gorman, Christine. ?Muscle Madness.? Time. 7 September 1998: 21-22.

Ringhofer, Kevin R. Coaches Guide to Drugs and Sports. Champaign: Human Kinetics

Publishers, 1996. Yesalis, Charles E. Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise.

Champaign: Human Kinetics Publishers, 1996.


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