Home » The Performance-Enhancing Supplement Controversy

The Performance-Enhancing Supplement Controversy

The use of performance-enhancing supplements among athletes should be banned from all athletic sports and competition, in that it provides an unfair advantage over other athletes trying to excel naturally. Performance-enhancing drugs are a controversial topic in today’s society, which are currently under debate. Performance-enhancing drugs are substances, which are used to stimulate certain areas of the body to make an athlete excel in a certain event. A performance enhancing supplement is defined by Edward Dolan in his book Drugs and Sports as “any substance or method used to enhance athletic performance”.

The most common form of performance-enhancing supplements are called steroids. According to Hank Nuwer in his book Steroids, steroids are anabolic drugs that build growth hormones that include the androgens (male sex hormones) principally testosterone and estrogen and progestogens (female sex hormones). Steroids were first developed for medical purposes. Steroids are compounds that are necessary for the well being of many living creatures, including human beings. These include sex hormones, bile acids, and cholesterol (Nuwer 17).

Steroids are used in the medical field to treat many ailments, and this use is not the use, which is currently under controversy. As steroids entered the mainstream after their historic introduction in the 1930’s to help patients malnourished due to the war and disease, they evolved into something understood by more than the prime-time college or Olympic-bound athlete as John Papanke reports in Sports Illustrated. The medical uses of steroids are to treat anemia, asthma, anorexia, burns, intestinal disorders, and much more (Nuwer 15).

These types of steroids are called cortical steroids. In addition to the medical use, another purpose of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs are that they are used by athletes to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors, or use them to keep up with the competition since so many athletes are using these types of drugs. These desired effects range from increasing muscle size and strength, to decreasing fatigue, providing quick temporary weight gain, inhibiting growth, and even simple pain relief (Lupica 24).

Performance-enhancing drugs are taken in a variety of different ways. The two most common ways these drugs are taken, are orally in a pill form, or injected into the body with a needle. The most common kind of performance-enhancing drugs are Nelvar, Deca-Durabolin, Anavar, Stanzolol, Dianabol and Anadrol-50 (Nuwer 19). These drugs are much more dangerous then legal performance enhancing drugs because the athletes take more than the recommended doses that would be prescribed by a doctor.

Athletes feel that the more pills or injections they take the stronger, faster, and the better they will perform when competing, but this is not always true. The effects of steroids on the human body are well recorded, they could permanently damage the heart and liver, stunt growth and change sexual characteristics (Green 81). Performance-enhancing drugs and steroids have been proven to be harmful to ones health according to many studies.

These studies have shown that steroids have been a major factor in causing liver damage, cardiomyopathy (the wearing out of the heart), jaundice, peliosis hepatis (blood filled cysts that form in the liver), and adverse affects on both the cardiovascular system and on the reproductive system (Meer 97) other side affects which are shared by both sexes which include high blood pressure, water retention, depression, cholesterol problems, septic shock, diarrhea, continuous bad breath, heart disease, yellowing of the eyes or skin (due to liver problems), insomnia, fetal damage for pregnant women, aggressive behavior, and of course, death (Bamberger 61).

Yet, women and men are still willing to risk their health and their lives in order to win and stay competitive in the world of sports. These products have also been linked to causing some forms of cancer. Due to these hazards, many performance-enhancing drugs have been banned in certain national and international sports, such as the NFL, NBA, ABA, WNBA, CFL, AFL and the Olympics (61).

Although these performance-enhancing supplements are banned, this does not mean that athletes participating in these sports do not take them, however. Professional athletic sports are a major area in which performance-enhancing drugs are used. Although some people use them just to try to make themselves look bigger and better, most people use them to help keep up with the competition in athletic events. The use of performance-enhancing supplements and drugs gives the user an unfair advantage over their competition through achieving strength in a shorter amount of time. The main purpose of performance-enhancing supplements is to get bigger and better faster. Unfortunately, it is not just the major athletes in pro sports and in the Olympics who use these drugs.

Performance-enhancing drugs are used in all levels of competition today, whether it is in the Olympics, in pro sports, in colleges, or even in high schools. In our society today we have seen an increase in the amount of high school athletes using performance-enhancing supplements for the sole purpose of achieving victory. “Steroids use permeates at all levels of sports, threatening the futures of hundreds of thousands of teenagers” (Blair 17). The issue concerning teens and performance-enhancing drugs is a rapidly growing one. According to Nuwer in his book Steroids, almost 66% of male high school seniors have used anabolic steroids at least one point during their short lives so far (65).

Also, Nuwer says that … dical researchers believe that between one and three million youths and adults have taken anabolic steroids in one form or another specifically to enhance their looks or athletic performances (61). Athletes hear about professional athletes using the drugs and they see the difference it makes, but what they don’t know or don’t care about are the long-term effects. The effects on teenagers are similar to the effects on adults. If a teenager starts out using at a young age and constantly uses these supplements, the long term side affects are more likely to be life threatening. Over eight percent of high scholars use anabolic steroids (Goldwire). Medical researchers believe that between one and three million youths and adults have taken anabolic steroids in one form or another specifically to enhance their physical appearance (Day 45).

Another large part of the use of performance enhancing drugs is in colleges. College athletes take a big risk in using these types of drugs because they can jeopardize the scholarships that they have worked so hard to earn. When other athletes use performance enhancing drugs they can sometimes force a teammate to use. Most of the time, the athletes on the team distribute the drugs so that it can improve the team. A study found that seventy percent of users got their drugs from the black market as their drug source (Wright 52). Athletes see other people taking these drugs who are excelling in events, breaking records, and bulking up and they feel in order to compete at the next level they must do the same.

Also, many athletes are misinformed about the dangers of performance-enhancing supplements, but on the other hand many athletes are aware of the dangers and consequences of taking these enhancers. In professional sports it is very likely to see performance enhancing supplements while athletes are in the training stages before their season begins. “Performance-enhancing drugs in sports has been known for generations, the users have generally constituted a small minority of athletes” (Nardo 24). The Olympics have been long known for having athletes take steroids. For years now, certain countries such as the former Country of East Germany and the former U. S. S. R. , as well as China, have had a number of athletes who have taken performance-enhancing supplements leading up to and during Olympic competition.

Bob Costas reports in a recent Sports Illustrated: They’re building into a power, but amidst suspicionsespecially concerning their track athletes, female swimmers, and in the weight lifting arena alone, Chinese women eclipsed every world record in all nine-weight classes, possibly using performance-enhancing drugs (18). Currently there is an investigation involving coaches and athletes from Germany who competed in the 1976 Olympics. As Don Kardong reports in Runners World: A German investigator is searching for evidence for a criminal trial of four coaches and two doctors accused of giving steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to unsuspecting athletes (72).

For years athletes in the Olympics have been using performance-enhancing supplements that have been banned from competition, some have not been caught but others haven’t been so lucky. Ben Johnson was an Olympic runner who represented Canada. In 1988 he was disqualified from the Olympics after winning the gold medal in the 100-meter dash because he tested positive for steroids. Ben Johnson was banned from the Olympics and his great career and reputation was ruined. In an article by Michael Janofsky for the New York Times stated that medical and legal experts as well as drug traffickers estimated that at least half of the nine thousand athletes who compete in the Olympics have used steroids (Nardo 17). In the past three decades, steroids have been becoming a serious problem more than ever in the athletic field.

The use of drugs by athletes has become a major problem: Not that drug abuse is anything new in sports, it has just picked up new momentum” (Reilly 41). They’re used in controlling inflammation, strengthening weakened hearts, preventing conception, and alleviating symptoms of arthritis and asthma (Cowart 33). Unfortunately research has shown that steroids have been abused in almost every kind of sport. Although steroids contribute to a muscular body, usage should remain illegal because they physically deteriorate and mentally destroy the body. “Researchers have noticed changes in brain wave activity in steroid users” (Nardo 24). Many people are fascinated about steroids because of their ability to build up the body. Whether taken by injection or the pill it increases strength and endurance.

Yes Steroids do lead to the increase of muscle mass, but they also lead to serious problems in the long run” (Alvin 64). Steroids also help in the healing process of muscular tissue by first injuring them, then the muscles heal quicker adding more fiber increasing their bulk (Edelson 138). Steroids are also very hard to trace because of their water base composition. They can pass through the body within two days (140). All these benefits of steroids help athletes become more competitive and increase their chance of becoming a winner. Of course everybody wants better biceps and triceps but when using steroids to achieve this goal there is a large price to pay. Steroids should remain illegal because they physically deteriorate the whole body system.

In women steroids contribute to the growth of facial hair, enlargements of the clitoris, shrinkage of the uterus, sterility, deepening of the voice, decrease in breast size and irregularity of the menstrual cycle (Meer 61). In men steroids cause shrinkage of the testicles, decrease in sperm count, sterility, impotence, prostate enlargement and growth of female breast. In both men and women hair loss, liver ailments, acne, atherosierosis and cancer are very common (61). The side effects and reactions from the usage of anabolic steroids are endless. Along with the physical problems there are also mental reactions associated with the usage of steroids. This drug becomes very addictive and damaging to the mind. It causes violent episodes, which an athlete can claim, a legal insanity defense as Jonathan Harris reports in his book Drugged Athletes.

Research has also discovered that steroids cause psychotic side effects sometimes referred to as “roid rage”. Along with these are wild aggressive, combative behavior, depression, listlessness and delusions during and after performance. Steroids mentally destroy the brain and ability to reason (139). Overall the usage of steroids is very damaging to the human body. Even though it physically builds up the body for better performance the risks of usage are enormous. Steroids physically deteriorate and mentally destroy the body. The usage of steroids provides an unfair advantage to non-user athletes and therefore should remain illegal for non-medical use. Drugs in sports can cost a player his or her scholarship(s) and more seriously, their lives.

Drug testing is a way for sports officials to sort out the users and severally punish them by throwing them off the team and sometimes expelling them from school. Performance enhancing drugs have a major impact on sports and athletes. The sports of today are experiencing more problems with performance enhancing drugs mainly because of the popularity of them (141). There are different effects for men and women but all of the problems are very serious. Gaining that little bit of competitiveness can lead to greater increases in performance (139). Steroids increase muscle mass and strength which helps athletes recover quicker from injuries (Bamberger 62).

Pat Butcher reports in the Independent that the most common sports where you would find the anabolic steroids are in bodybuilding, football, track & field, power events, and weightlifting. Weight lifting has reported the highest use with eight-teen-percent, football ten-percent, track and field follows with four-percent, and baseball with two-percent (Gildea 57). Cycling has also become a sport where performance drugs are found. Cyclists used the drugs not only in training but to aid them in their races giving them that extra mile (Dolan 29). Athletes come up with new and different ways of using drugs to enhance their performance without getting caught. Athletes use the drugs in cycles.

They use the drug in cycles of six to twelve weeks, followed by three to six months of being drug-free, this is known as cycling (Meer 61). Athletes start off with a low dosage and then gradually increase to the highest point of use; this is called pyramiding (57). Performance enhancing drugs can either be taken orally or they can be injected. Lyle Alzado explained, “the injected type is usually injected into the butt so that there are no visible scars” (Harris 91). Oral forms include Winstrol, Anavar, Dianabol, and Andro-50, which athletes can easily overdose on these types of drugs, which can cause serious heath injury and/or possibly death (91).

Many sports facilities have rules and regulations against drug use, so the teams and organizations perform drug tests to eliminate the drug problem in the organizations. I think that the use of drug tests is a good idea to discharge the players that have a drug abuse problem. Athletes today have the urge to use the performance enhancing drugs to make them selves perform at a higher level. Drug testing of athletes needs to become more effective to clamp down on supplement use. A recent clinical survey taken on the drug testing policies in colleges shows that out of two hundred and forty-five schools, only twenty-nine percent of those schools reported drug testing (Bamberger 63).

With all the new drugs out on the market it is virtually impossible to have tests that can identify all the different drugs. Athletes have come up with new ways to escape positive testing. Many of the world-class athletes are able to adjust their normal dosage so they can escape detection (Reilly 42). According to Hank Nuwer most of the professional leagues and the NCAA have lists of banned drugs and testing procedures. In 1983, the National Basketball Association set its drug policy and it is now viewed as the most progressive in all sports. The NBA has the right to administer drug tests to players if it feels there is a need to. In 1988 the NBA expanded its policy to include random drug testing of the rookies that enter the league in their first year.

In 1990, the NCAA instituted a very stiff policy regarding steroids. The policy states that division one-football players must undergo a year-round, mandatory testing for steroids on a random basis (Nuwer 17). I think that drug testing should be a mandatory event in every college whether or not it is an invasion of their privacy. A constant battle has been fought as the International Olympic Committee struggles to keep drug testing up-to-date and effective. We have come to associate drug use with a few famous names of fallen heroes, such as Ben Johnson, but few realize just how widespread drug use is in Olympic sports and how small a percentage of offenders ever get caught.

Recent studies show that increased testing procedures have done little to deter athletes from relying on drugs to aid performance and that drug use among Olympic athletes is actually on the rise (Dolan 29). Performance-enhancing drug use is not limited to the Olympic games. There are few sports that have not been affected in some way by drug use. The fact is that there are numerous substances currently available with potential benefits for athletes in all sports. Most professional sports do not have rigorous testing procedures for performance enhancing drugs for the simple facts that there are too many drugs to test for, and the tests are too easy to beat says Hank Nuwer.

This presents the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with one of it’s greatest challenges; trying to keep it’s drug testing procedures on par with the technology of today’s pharmacists (63). Don Kardong reports that the IOC faces major problems when posing these tests: Is that many of these drugs can be cycled, where the athlete stops taking doses long enough ahead of time so that no trace of the drug will show up in urine samples. Another problem is the testing procedure itself. Samples are tested for a list of known substances, and since new drugs have to be used and discovered in tests before the IOC is aware of them and can include them on the list, those athletes who have access to the newest products have the advantage of using drugs not yet on the banned list.

In addition, many of these athletes according to Jeff Meer have access to the same high-tech equipment used by the IOC to detect drugs, allowing them to familiarize themselves with levels of detection and necessary clearance times for different drugs. This is how many athletes are able to consistently avoid testing positive, while maintaining a diverse regimen of drugs. In addition to the difficulties involved in detecting many drugs and illegal procedures, Meer feels the IOC is faced with the tremendous cost involved in implementing an all-encompassing testing protocol for all athletes. In his article “The Drug Detectives”, Mike Lupica states that the IOC “is deploying hand-picked technicians and three $700,000 high-resolution mass spectrometers” to perform drug tests at a cost of about $800 per test (Lupica 1).

Although many recent studies estimate that roughly 80 percent of all Olympic athletes are currently using, or have at some time used, some type of performance-enhancing drug, only a handful have ever been caught and punished according to Hank Nuwer’s studies (23). This again points to the inefficiency of the IOC’s efforts to diminish the prevalence of drugs in Olympic competition. Due to the lack of success that the IOC has had in controlling the rampant spread of drug use, many have asked why they do not simply go with the popular trends and legalize the use of these drugs in competition. While most will agree that drug use is now rampant throughout the Olympics, eliminating the tests and lifting bans would surely cause the use and abuse of these substances to increase dramatically.

If allowed into the Olympics and other sports, we would surely see a drastic rise in the black-market. While these bans are forced, athletes who chose to remain natural and compete without drugs still have a chance. Lifting the bans would effectively force all serious Olympic hopefuls to take potentially dangerous drugs. Even with the current bans and testing procedures, “the nationalistic driving force for Olympic competition has been athletic performance, and because of this relationship, sports medicine has become an integral component of the Olympic movement” (Tipton 2). Another reason why the use of these substances is controlled is that many substances are potentially dangerous to the health of the athlete.

Athletes have been known to suffer from liver and kidney dysfunction to various forms of cancer (Rogak 96). Many of the drugs today lack the extensive testing needed to predict possible side effects and consequences of long-term use (96). Many would ask why athletes would put themselves at such tremendous risks to both their health and reputations. To many athletes, these rewards of stardom are worth any risk. I mean, the common motto in sports is “win at all costs”. Americans do not hope for success from their athletes, they expect and even demand it, and “exposing the public to the darker side of elite-level sports could produce negative sentiments towards the Olympic Games” (Moore 4).

It seems that the best plan for the IOC is to continue with their current procedure, and enforce testing wherever possible. The IOC is sending a message to athletes, that they are aware of the use of drugs but they will never condone it, and that they will continue to implement testing in an attempt to discourage the spread of the use of supplements throughout sports. With continued funding and research, the IOC may someday develop testing procedures more advanced than the technology available to the athletes. This would hopefully eliminate the use performance-enhancing drugs and return professional sports to a level playing field that was originally intended.

Because doctors and IOC officials know very little about the many types of performance-enhancing drugs and steroids, they have yet to come up with good ways of detecting them (61). According to Michael Bamberger and Don Yaeger of Sports Illustrated, the only ways the IOC can test right now is to use urine tests, a gaschromato graph, and a high-resolution mass spectrometer, yet there are many ways to bypass all three of these tests (61). Also, Bamberger and Yaeger note that, the sophisticated athlete who wants to take drugs has switched to things we can’t even test for. To be caught is not easy; it only happens, says David Reid, director of the doping control center, when an athlete is either incredibly sloppy, incredibly stupid, or both (79).

Another way to deceive drug tests is to use special performance-enhancing drugs, which are made especially for one person to do one specific duty. These drugs do not have the same chemical parts as the ones the IOC tests for, and therefore these athletes are not usually caught. But, these drugs are extremely expensive, sometimes costing the athletes up to $1,500 a month (Bamberger and Yaeger 64). Also, legal performance-enhancing drugs such as creatine and androstenedione, which may also have adverse side affects, and both of which are used by professional baseball player Mark McGwire, are seen as drugs that help a person to become stronger and better, without any of the negative results in which some illegal performance-enhancing drugs and steroids can bring.

Young athletes have heard and seen that established athletes whom they admire use [performance-enhancing drugs], and they want to follow the same victorious paths of their heroes (Nuwer 12). According to an article written in the October 1998 issue of People Weekly, … sales of the steroid (androstenedione) are expected to top $100 million this year, up from $5 million in 1997 (144). Many of these sales will be from younger athletes competing at the high school level, unaware of the dangers of this legal substance. According to a USA Today report, … 175,000 teenage girls in the United States have reported taking anabolic steroids at least once within a year of the time surveyed–a rise of 100% since 1991 (Winner A3). This compares to the estimated 325,000 teenage boys who currently use steroids (A3).

George Will notes that “A society’s recreation is charged with moral significance, sports and a society that takes it seriously would be debased if it did not strictly for bid things that blur the distinction between the triumph of character and the triumph of chemistry” (Edelson 139). One action that these organizations must take in the near future is to spend a lot of time and money on the study of performance-enhancing drugs and steroids. Thus, they would be able to come up with better ways to be able to test athletes. These regulations are needed not only to protect the athletes, but also to bring some integrity back to the world of sports. These athletes care only about themselves and do not have enough discipline and desire to train hard, the honest way without the use of supplements.

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