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Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Steroid use and abuse is in the news almost daily. The media talks about
steroid use in professional sports, Olympic athletes, college athletes, and
even high school athletes. Steroid use is illegal in the United States, but
many athletes still think it is a must do to gain a competitive edge in
their sport. Non-athletes are even using steroids to make enhancements in
their appearance and improve their self image. However, steroids use is not
a new concept, but an evolving one. The purpose of this article is to
analyze a group of scholarly journal articles concerning the ever evolving
topic of anabolic steroid use.
The history of steroids is outlined in William Taylors book, Macho
Medicine: A History of the Anabolic Steroid Epidemic. The steroids that are
most talked about today are anabolic steroids, which are groups of molecules
that include male testosterone and synthetic, or man made, testosterone.
Testosterone was first isolated in the early 1930s by Fred Koch and Lemuel
McGee, a professor and medical student at the University of Chicago. After
isolating testosterone they tested its effects by injecting it into rats.
After the testosterone was injected into the rats, they moved on in their
research and tested it in human males. They were considered almost gods in
the scientific world for replicating a human hormone. Taylor says that Koch
and McGee noticed the enhancement in testosterone levels and the possible
treatments of major diseases of the time. While some scientists were trying
to use testosterone to treat diseases and disorders, other scientists took
notice of the effects it was having on muscle development. German
scientists then elaborated on Koch and McGee’s experiment and started
testing steroids for the physical gains it produced.
The use of testosterone as an anabolic steroid in sports was first thought
to be used by German and Russian weightlifting competitors according to
Charles Yelasis in his book, Anabolic Steroids in Sports and Exercise.
After the German and Russian weight lifters made tremendous strength gains
by using steroids other athletes took notice and steroid use started
spreading to different countries. The steroids taken by the German and
Russian athletes were those that were talked about in Taylors book. By the
mid 19th century almost all sports had been tainted by steroid doping. The
concern with steroid use and the after effects it leaves started to spread
by the 1970s. Steroid users started to see the adverse affects it had on
their body. Since steroids had not had long term testing no one knew the
effects it could have. Education on the effects of steroids started to
spread throughout the United States and other countries. Even though the
public was learning about the adverse affects of steroids, steroids use was
still a growing concern.
Since the early 1990s, steroid intervention has become a large part of high
school coaches and athletic director’s job. To put steroid intervention
programs into place doctors had to analyze steroid users and the reasons
they choose to justify steroid use had to be addressed. John Fuller and
Marc Lafountain did a study that interviewed fifty athletes that admitted to
using steroids. They found that the steroid users knew that it was a
harmful drug, but they reasoned themselves into doing them. Fuller and
Lafountain placed the users into four categories based on how they reasoned
themselves into using steroids: denial of victim, denial of injury,
condemnation of condemners, and appeal to higher loyalties. Fuller and
Lafountain talked of several problems that were revealed in their
interviews, such as: “the ease with which our sample was collected and the
loss of credibility of the medical and coaching professionals” (974). They
were shocked at just how easy it is to buy steroids, and how doctors and
coaches could be so naïve to steroid use.
The writers of ESPN.com talk about some of the side-effects of using
steroids in their article “Anabolic Steroids.” Surprisingly enough it is
not just football players or body builders using steroids, but non-athletes
as well. Most steroid users say they do not care about the side effects it
can have, but not all users understand all of the side effects. According
to the ESPN writers some the side effects for prolong use in males is
“impotence, development of breasts, shrinking of testicles, and painful
urination” (“Anabolic Steroids” 3). The long-term effects of steroid have
not been because of the rationality of testing on humans and restrictions
placed on steroids. Another reason doctors didn’t know the long-term
effects is because the steroid users from the early 1960s and 70s are just
now seeing the long-term effects it is having on their body.
One of the shocking things that the ESPN writers and Yesalis talk about is
the amount of steroid use in women. Speculation of steroid use in Soviet
female athletes started in the 1960s according to Yesalis. The female
steroid use spread to the Eastern bloc countries throughout the 1960s. As
years past, more females started using steroids in sports ranging from
basketball and gymnastics to lacrosse and softball. Women that use steroids
start to grow facial hair, their voice deepens, and their menstrual cycle
changes (“Anabolic Steroids” 3). Both ESPN and Yesalis argue that the use
of steroids in women is starting to be a major concern in professional
sports and the Olympics games.
A major concern that doctors and school administrators have is steroid use
in adolescents. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics,
“the studies on steroid use have shown a continuing and significant increase
of use among adolescent athletes” (“Adolescents and Anabolic Steroids: A
Subject Review” 904). The writers at ESPN also voiced their concern with
adolescent steroid use because it can cause the growth plates to grow
together limiting the adolescent’s potential height. With the studies done
by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “practitioners cannot depend on
community education programs or drug testing to curb the use of anabolic
steroids in adolescents” (“Adolescents and Anabolic Steroids: A Subject
Review” 906). The practitioners that voiced their opinion in the Pediatric
journal believe they are going to have to take on the burden of trying to
eliminate adolescent steroid use by educating and confronting possible
steroid users. A concern the journal has is the way in which the doctors
are going to have to confront patients believed to be using steroids. The
journal argues “Responses that are confrontational, judgmental, or in
violation of doctor-patient confidentiality will quickly eliminate any
opportunity to influence the patient’s decision making” (“Adolescents and
Anabolic Steroids: A Subject Review” 907). If a doctor confronts the
patient or makes him think he is going to get into trouble for using
steroids the doctor will not have a chance to influence the patient to quit
There are more forms of doping, or substance use, in athletes and
bodybuilders than just steroids. With pharmaceutical advancements a
supplemental substance that is on the rise is the use of androstenedione.
Androstenedione, or androstene, is an all natural over the counter
supplement that increases the production of testosterone. According to
“Androstenedione et al: Nonprescription Steroids”, an article written by
Lisa Minneapolis, “androstenedione and other steroid supplements are
anabolic steroids” and that “natural doesn’t mean safe” (2).
Androstenedione and other supplements may be legally sold over the counter,
but they are still considered an anabolic steroid. Even though
androstenedione is a natural supplement the Olympics ban its use and most
professional sports discourage or look down upon its use.
The Olympics, professional, college, and high school sports are trying to
curb steroid use by implementing drug tests. Drug testing is a very
controversial issue at the high school level because some believe it invades
students’ privacy and that their rights have been violated. At all levels
of athletics there is a system set up for punishing those that are caught
using steroids. If an Olympic athlete tests positive for steroid use they
are sometimes banned from the Olympics and sometime the sport completely.
One problem with testing for steroid use is that some of the over the
counter supplements, like androstenedione and norandrostenedione, will leave
trace contaminates in a urine sample causing an athlete to fail the test
(Caitlin et al. 2618). With these supplements showing up in a drug test, it
could cause some athletes to be falsely accused of steroid use in a sport
where these supplements are legal to use.
To play a sport at the professional level most athletes believe that they
must take something to make them a step above their competition. Athletes
are not only taking steroids for their physical gains, but are also taking
things such as stimulants, narcotic analgesics, blockers, diuretics,
peptide hormones, and are blood doping (MacAuley 211-12). Domhnall MacAuley
analyzed research done from the 1960s to the late 1990s on the drugs taken
by athletes and wrote the article “Drugs in Sports.” His research shows
that there has been a drug problem in all aspects of sports since the 1960s,
but as was discussed by Taylor and Yesalis drugs in sports has been around
along time before the 1960s. MacAuley cites a problem in his research
because the magnitude of drug doping in professional sports cannot be
analyzed because it is a very underground operation.
With this problem being cited, drug testing is the next topic that MacAuley
analyzes. MacAuley analyzes a survey conducted by the sports council in
1995 that asked athletes several questions about doping in sports and even
about drug testing. Athletes responded by saying “34% percent expressed
dissatisfaction at the range of competitors selected for testing and 41%
expressed dissatisfaction about the frequency of testing” (MacAuley 213).
With this many athletes being disappointed at who is drug tested and the
frequency at which their competitors are tested leads to conclude that the
athletes surveyed know there is more drug doping in sports taking place than
what is being caught in drug tests. Caitlin also argues that drug testing
is not efficient or thorough enough in professional sports.
Steroid use has been around for a long time with many different opinions
expressed on the practicality and morality of its use in athletes. People
still choose to use steroids when study after study shows that its use can
be harmful to the body and mind. Athletes will continue to use them because
they believe it puts them a step above their competitors while non-athletes
choose to use them because of the gains to their physical appearance.
There is one thing that all the authors talked about agree upon, and that is
the health risks of using steroids and other drugs outweigh the physical
gains that are achieved when using them. Steroid and drug use will always
be a part of athletics because people believe it raises them above their
competitors, but doctors and the authors want users to know that they are
setting themselves up for failure by using these drugs.
“Adolescents and Anabolic Steroids: A Subject Review.” American Academy of
Pediatrics Jun 1997. Proquest Direct. Oklahoma State University. 27 Sep.
2004 <http//80-proquest.umi.com .argo.library.okstate.edu/>.
“Anabolic Steroids.” ESPN. 6 Sep. 2003. 26 Sep. 2004 <www.espn.go.com
Caitlin, Don H., et al. “Trace Contamination of Over-the-Counter
and Positive Urine Test Results for a Nandrolone Metabolite.” JAMA 282.20
Fuller, John R., and Mark J. LaFountain. “Performance-Enhancing Drugs in
Different Form of Drug Abuse.” Adolescence 22.88 (1987): 969-76. MacAuley, Domhnall. “Drugs in sport.” British Medical Journal 313 (1996):
Minneapolis, Lisa Schnirring. “Androstenedione et al: Nonprescription
The Physician and Sportsmedicine 26.11 (1998). ProQuest Direct. Oklahoma
State University Library. Article 36381719. 3 Oct. 2004
Taylor, William N. Macho Medicine: A History of the Anabolic Steroid
Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1991. Yesalis, Charles E, ed. Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise. Champaign:
Kinetics Publishers, Inc., 1993.
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