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The Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports

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Is the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports dangerous? To what degree do these drugs really enhance strength, size, training ability, and muscular performance? Not only are the answers to these questions still unclear, they are the subjects of deep controversy. In order to understand why we are confronted with the problem of performance-enhancing drug use in athletics today, we must look at the history of the development of anabolic steroids: a group of powerful synthetic chemical compounds that resemble the natural male sex hormones (Schwarzenneger 722). Anabolic steroids were first developed in the 1930's as a therapeutic drug to treat growth hormone replacement in deficient children, menopausal symptoms, impotence, and the retardation of the effects of aging by stimulating the rate of synthesis of protein molecules (Biology 121 Web Project 1). These steroids are a simulated testosterone hormone of the "steroid hormone" group. The steroid hormones (which are also produced naturally) are synthesized from cholesterol. Most simply understood, the hormones function by passing from the blood stream into individual cells where they bind to a receptor and activate certain genes that cause the production of a protein, especially muscle proteins (et. al.). By the late 1940's, bodybuilders had discovered the effects of testosterone as a means to stimulate muscle growth and to make themselves train with more intensity and aggression (Schwarzenneger 723). In 1953, the first truly synthetic anabolic steroid was developed, having a strength-building effect three to five times higher than testosterone. From bodybuilders to other athletes, steroid use quickly gained popularity as the number of people who used them continued to rise (Biology 121 Web Project 1). In the 1960 Olympic games, the International Olympic Committee, for the first time, detected a case of steroid use-a Russian cyclist collapsed and died after using steroids

(Meoreira de Araujo 1). At the 1972 Olympic games, a large number of athletes from a variety of sports were interviewed about their drug use and a total of 68 percent admitted to using anabolic steroids (Schwarzenneger 723). Throughout the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's, additional forms of anabolic steroids were developed despite a number of scientific studies being conducted on the effectiveness and dangers of their use (et. al.). Today, it is common knowledge that steroids cause some bodily harm. However, not everyone is familiar with the extent of the possible side effects. Listed below are several examples: (Meoreira de Araujo 5). Ð'* Altered liver function caused by the stress placed on the liver while trying to remove steroids from the blood. Ð'* Jaundice, peliosis hepatitis, hemorrhaging, and liver cancer are possible with prolonged use. Ð'* Alteration of cardiovascular function: Effects include changes in the clotting of blood, atherosclerosis, and higher levels of cholesterol. Ð'* Reduction of natural testosterone production. Ð'* Increase of male sexual characteristics in females, such as, increased body hair, atrophied breasts, and deepening of the voice. Ð'* Gastrointestinal disorders, including loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Ð'* Muscle cramps Ð'* Aggression Ð'* Headaches and nosebleeds Ð'* Gynecomastia (development of breastlike tissue in males). Ð'* Increased susceptibility to tendon injuries. Now that the history and effects of steroid use have been explained, I believe the following to be the causes of steroid use: 1. Fear of the competition. 2. Physical appearance. Dr. James E. Wright, a noted authority on the subject of steroid use in athletics, states "more than 90 percent of athletes in strength-related sports are using these drugs today." And, according to Arnold Schwarzenneger, the main reason athletes take them is "because they know their competition is taking them and they don't want to give away an advantage." (723). Many beginner and intermediate bodybuilders, for example, who hear that the champions are using steroids, believe that they too can make enormous gains by taking these drugs. Studies done, however, on the effect of steroids do not bear this out (et. al.). Steroids have their greatest effect on size and strength only when the athlete has plateaued-that is, made about as much gain as possible without the use of drugs. Trained individuals respond to steroids much better than untrained ones. Gains are also maximized if training very hard during the period of steroid use. In



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