Steroids in sports: The good, bad and ugly

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In recent headlines, and throughout sports history, steroid use seems to go hand in hand with at least one well-known athlete in every sport at least once. In baseball: from Sammy Sosa to Mark McGuire, in more recent headlines Lance Armstrong. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a self admitted steroid user who proclaimed everyone at the time was using it. It was as mainstream in the body building world as hot dogs were to baseball games. The list goes on and on. So what exactly is the big deal about steroids and should they be allowed in the sports world?

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Lets start by discussing the numerous amounts of enhancers that are legal that you can find in your local health and fitness stores. You have everything from arginine powders and pills to amino acids, protein supplements to stabilizers. Supplements to increase semen production, to reduce lactic acid, energizing supplements with high levels of caffeine and so on. Many of these supplements are not FDA approved or regulated and are not guaranteed to do what they say will do. Each of these supplements have their own list of benefits and side effects. From bodybuilding to skiing, skateboarding to rock climbing it seems these days that everyone is taking something. So you say sure, but those are all legal? We will use the world legal loosely because again many supplements are not FDA regulated and therefore you truly have no idea exactly what you’re getting when you take them. We have a blind trust for anything that is sold on shelves inside mainstream stores and businesses. We automatically think them “safe” because they are “legally” being sold.

Now lets cover Anabolic Steroids. The dirty little word which seems so taboo in our society. Yet all steroids are is a substance that closely resembles the male hormone testosterone. Nothing more, nothing less. Many people take steroid injections to counteract a low testosterone level. Which can happen with some men as they age. It helps with people suffering from AIDS as well as muscle disorders and diseases. It allows them to maintain and even increase their weight to counteract their disease. Women with breast cancer benefit from steroid use. Burn victims who use it for rapid injury repair. Athletes could benefit from the injections which could help heal a knee injury faster, or a broken bone. People use steroids for nitrogen balance, menopause, transgender therapy, and lastly rapid muscle growth. Steroids increase muscle growth through muscle fiber hypertrophy which increases the volume of muscle faster. That is the reason body builders who lift the same amount of weight yet have larger muscles faster than someone who lifts the same but not on steroids.

So what exactly are the negative effects of steroids? There must be a reason they have such a bad rap if they do all these positive things. On the flip side steroids are just like any other drug out there on the market today there are side effects. Women can experience hair growth, clitoris growth, loss of menstrual cycle and a deeper voice. Men can experience acne, baldness, infertility, erectile dysfunction ad prostate enlargement. Very rarely, they can experience testicular atrophy which causes shrinkage of the testes however this can be prevented if HCG is taken at the end of a cycle. Just like any drug on the market users are at risk for liver damage, high blood pressure and heart disease. Just read the label of drugs you use or have used. Each and every one has negative side effects some which are even fatal. So whats the big deal about steroids? Many argue it’s the psychological effects. Also known as roid rage. However what the nay sayers wont tell you is that it is rare and can be treated if the user ceases use. Just like any drug there can be a dependency problem. It must be dealt with on a case by case basis just like those suffering from a sleeping pill addiction.

What about the side effects? Anything these days has side effects. Just like getting in your car everyday. Anything could happen. Someone could run a red light, hit you head on. Your engine could blow. Steroids has less side effects than many over the counter medicines do today. Aspirin for example can cause serious allergic reactions that can result in death(Reyes Syndrome), it can cause inflammation, isn’t safe for pregnant women who are nursing or pregnant, can cause stomach bleeding, anemia, hives, swelling, skin rashes and legions,tinnitus (ringing in your ears), excessive bleeding where your blood can’t clot, kidney problems,etc…Should steroid use be legalized? The great debate. Some would argue it impossible to regulate and control. However if you legalize a certain level of testosterone for each athlete it would erase confusion and help combat abuse. It would than allow athletes the ability to utilize steroids as part of a healing plan for injuries, give them an extra edge on the field, extra confidence and a longer shelf life. What I mean by shelf life is the number of years an athlete can professionally play their sport. Take football for example. A sport that is so hard on the body, joints and muscles. Imagine if steroid therapy was in place? It would allow for less injuries, a faster healing process and a longer career time for our athletes out there. Who for many sports is their only career option without it they have nothing to fall back on. Lets face it not all athletes play out their contracts due to injuries they just cant overcome. Imagine if steroids could help lower that statistic?

Lets stop making steroids taboo and discuss the facts of what they are. Perhaps if there is a better understanding as to what they are and why people take them there will be less stigma and more results. Whether they become legal or not it is still important to get the facts straight and understand that just because drugs are in our stores and pharmacies that alone does not make them magically safer for our consumption than illegal substances.


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