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Performance Enhancing Drugs and Their Effects

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Matthew Cheever

Professor Meagan Rodgers

Engl. 401


Performance Enhancing Drugs and their Effects

Sports are America's number one source of entertainment. We often love to see game-winning homeruns, hail marys, eighty yard runs, and records being broken. We want OUR athletes to be at their best. We do not care at whose expense this entertainment comes, we just want our money's worth. How do these athletes perform at such high levels day in and day out? Most of them go to the gym and hit the weights or go to the ball field and practice some hitting. But others take an easier way out. They decide to cheat themselves of becoming a truly better athlete. Those cheating athletes turn to performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids or androstenedione, a.k.a. andro. These players feel the negative consequences of these drugs are out-weighed by the positive consequences. Those players are wrong.

As a fan of sports, I want my favorite teams or players to be at their best. I want them to win. No, not just win; I want them to be spectacular in doing it. I want my team to give me heart-stopping action. Whether it is a homerun in the bottom of the ninth to win the World Series or it is a buzzer beater from half court to win the game, either way my team has to be great. I do not care about their practice habits or what is going on in their household; I just want them to perform at their best every night. I know most of you are guilty of this too. We turn on the TV at the beginning of the baseball game and the announcer says, "Joe Schmo won't be playing tonight cause of a broken leg he suffered last night in a terrible car accident." At first you will be shocked and hope he is ok. Then you ask the TV, expecting to get an answer, "When is he gonna be back?!?!"

Sports today have become so competitive that players will hurt others to win or at least get an edge. If they do not hurt others, they hurt themselves. Lately there have been many cases of players being caught with some type of performance-enhancing drug. It seems that the pressure for these players to succeed has pushed them to the level of "at all costs". Recently, ex-Major League Baseball (MLB) superstar Jose Canseco admitted to using anabolic steroids while he was in the pros. Canseco was one of the premiere hitters in his time. Canseco admitted his usage of the drug after his retirement from the majors. Canseco also said approximately 85% of baseball players used steroids when he was in the majors (Rushin, 17-19).

Canseco is not the only player who has admitted to using steroids to get an edge playing baseball. Ken Caminiti, former National League MVP, has also admitted to using steroids during his career with baseball. Caminiti estimated 50 % of major league baseball players were using steroids. Some people question whether or not steroids really make a big difference in the performance of baseball players. Lets look at the numbers. Before Caminiti took steroids, the most homeruns he had in a season was 26. In 1996, his first year taking steroids, he set several career highs. 40 homeruns, 130 RBI's (runs batted in), and a batting average of .326. These numbers were good enough to earn Caminiti the National League MVP (Caminiti Comes Clean).

It is not just steroids these athletes are taking to improve their performances. Mark McGwire, a recent homerun record holder, took andro while he played in the Majors. Andro is a precursor to his cousin steroids. This means it basically has the same affects to the body as steroids. Steroids and andro both increase the body's testosterone. Increased testosterone results in acne, baldness, and lower cholesterol (Associated Press). Why would these players put themselves in harm's way? Apparently they feel the deterioration of their body does not match the importance of being great in their sport.

The other drug that has been making the headlines lately has been ephedra. Ephedra is a dietary supplement that was used by ex Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler. Bechler died last year during spring training. His death was traced to the use of ephedra. There have been over 155 deaths traced from to the use of ephedra. Ephedra is supposed to speed up metabolism and is a great energizer. The only problem is if it is not taken properly, it results in the heart pumping so fast that the consumer goes into cardiac arrest. Ephedra was taken off the market and is now illegal to produce because of these deaths (Llosa, 71).

All these drugs have very bad side effects. However steroids have the worst documented side effects for performance-enhancing drugs. If you do not think so, just look at what happened to the East German Olympic athletes who practiced for the Olympics in the 70's or 80's. Those Olympiads were secretly given Oral-Turinabol, an anabolic steroid. They were told by their coaches and trainers the pills were vitamins and they would help their training. The steroids caused over 1,000 of the 10,000 athletes to have severe long term health problems. For the male athletes, some of those harms included: impotence, damaged hearts, kidney failure, and even some men grew womanly breasts. The steroids also caused most of the hammer throwers to die at young ages. As for the women, the steroids caused ovarian cysts, infertility, and birth defects to their children (Bechtel, 25). These are not the only consequences when consuming steroids. Steroids can affect several parts of the body. For men some other side effects are: reduced sperm count, shrinkage of testicles, and pain when urinating (Community Drug Alert). Liver cancer, homicidal rage, and delusions are other side effects from steroids for both sexes (Research Report Series).

These are the type of drugs that a small portion of America's youth is now taking to make the varsity football team or to have the perfect body for the beach. The youth is hearing about our professional athletes taking these performance enhancing drugs and thinking, "I want to

be like him" or "Look at him, he's doing it and he's making millions because of it." They do not know of the terrible long term effects of these drugs. So they either swallow pills or inject the drugs with needles into their body thinking it is ok. That was the case of 16 year old Sean Riggins.

Sean Riggins



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