All about Steroids
Steroids that are used by athletes are the artificial form of testosterone, a human hormone released by the body to stimulate and maintain the male sexual organs. Testosterone is called a male hormone since it is produced in men in large quantities compared to the quantity produced in women (Mishra, 1-2). Hormones that are produced by the testes and the adrenal gland in men and ovaries and adrenal gland in women contains certain kind of fat called steroids, natural ones, which means “solid” in Greek. The body produces about 600 different kinds of steroids called androgens these kinds include testosterone. The amount of testosterone produced in males is about 10 to 15 times more than in women. For this reason we notice that women who uses steroids have masculine characteristics (Yesalis, 23-24). A male human body produce an average of 2.5 to 11 mg of testosterone daily, while the average user of steroids take about 100 mg daily (Mishra, 2). When we talk about steroids we are referring to the anabolic-androgenic steroids, but athletes are more concerned with the anabolic property. Anabolic in Greek means, “to build” while androgenic means “masculinizing.” Androgenic effect plays a role in the maturation of the male reproduction system and is responsible for hair growth and the deepening of the voice while anabolic effect helps in the growth of the muscles by providing them by retained protein (Anabolic steroids, 1). Anabolic steroids are the result from tests that are were made to produce a drug that has tissue-building ability that of the testosterone and at the same time separating it from testosterone’s masculinizing properties. Since the separation did not fully worked out, the proper name of this drug is anabolic-androgenic steroids although it is called anabolic steroids or just steroids (Yesalis, 24).
From the early ages man was concerned in increasing his power and his sexual ability. Athletes in the old Greek used to take some wine mixed with strychnine, stimulus of the CNS, taken from plants. Others ate hallucinogenic drugs (Reuters, 1). In 140 BC Indians used to eat testicle tissue that gave them sexual ability and helped in overcoming impotence problems. During 2000 Babylonians noticed that castration did not only caused fertility problems but also they lose their aggressiveness and power (Yesalis, 31-32). Steroids were first developed in the 1930s By Dr. Charles Kockakian, who was called the father of anabolic steroids, to prevent body tissues from breaking down due diseases, but the illegal use of steroids started in the Olympic games in the 1950s after the athletic committee has found that Russian athletes and some East European nations athletics won the majority of the medals and that was due to the use of steroids (Mishra, 1). This was a result after Paul de Kruif a science writer suggested in 1940s the idea of using the tissue-building drug to be used in sports so that athletes could enhance their performance. However, the mystery of the movement of drugs from laboratory to sports is not discovered yet, since no one know how steroids invaded every kind of sports (Yesalis, 34-36). After discovering the tissue-building property so many researches were done to isolate this property from androgenic property, but this was impossible. Researchers changed the testosterone’s chemical structure by adding esters that is a combination of alcohol and acid after water is removed. These testosterone esters became the major drug for all athletes (Yesalis, 34).
Steroids can be taken in many different ways; it could be orally (pills or capsules), by injection with a syringe (as a viscous liquid), or by skin creams or patches. Steroids that are taken orally have their chemical structure helps them to be quickly cleaned by the liver but at the same time it is toxic to the liver. Steroids users often take steroids in cycles each episode lasts from 6 to 12 weeks or more. During their cycles users begin with low doses then increase the doses to go back to lower doses (Yesalis, 25). Moreover, users always stack, use different kinds of steroids and that to give more effect and reduce side effects and avoid detection (Ringhofer, 174). Some steroids users take other drugs concurrently with steroids this is called array. The aim behind these drugs is to lessen the side effects of steroids. For example these drugs could contain diuretic to handle fluid retention, anti-estrogens to prevent breast development, chorionic gonadotrophine to reduce testicular atrophy and anti-acne medication. Athletes take dosage depending on each particular sport; sprinters take about 1.5 to 2 times than the normal average which is 7 mg of testosterone a day, while body builders who are seeking to “bulk up” take about 10 to 100 more than the normal average (Yesalis, 26).
Users and Causes of Using Steroids
There are so many different kinds of people who use steroids; mainly they are athletes who want to compete, kids who are trying it for the first time and other school athletes, coaches in the GYM take steroids so they will look more muscular and huge from those who are training. On the other side, some people who perform hard work like policeman, fireman uses steroids to be more energetic. Models, dancers, and movie stars all of them take steroids for a better image (Yesalis, 5). Steroids have a medical use too. They help many patients who are going to make a surgery, for the elderly how want to regulate their hormones and many others use steroids to fight problems resulting from HIV and AIDS. But all these will not be our issue of discussion in this paper since we will concentrate on athletes’ use of steroids (Yesalis, 6).
The sociological aspect is the main reason behind using steroids. So many athletes and people mainly males think that large and strong muscles will give them a “masculine” look. Others accept nothing but winning and this put a lot of pressure on them; in such cases, they start taking steroids. Other reason behind steroids use is that some school or college athletes are looking forward for a scholarship and steroids can help a lot. Moreover, people are concerned more with short-term results than long-term health consequences (Mishra, 3).
Mechanism of Action
There is one clear evidence that during hard training two things happen. First, the level of testosterone drops in the human body to the level of the castrated one. The other thing is that body release glucocrticoids which break down tissue, catabolic effect. We conclude that over training may cause muscle decrease. As a result the importance of steroids use while training is increasing. Steroids help in increasing protein syntheses through its interaction with the targeted tissue. So after the DNA in the cell, chromosome, interact with the anabolic steroids that have reached through the blood, various enzyme, structural and contractile proteins formation take place. This helps muscles to grow faster (Yesalis, 27-29).
The other thing is Placebo Effect; it is the physical or the psychological change that results from taking an inert substance, believing that this inert will have a therapeutic effect. This was the case even in ancient times. Placebo effects result from a person’s imagination that he can achieve more, moreover in some cases there are improvements based on objective clinical standards (Yesalis, 30-31).
Finally, Nervous System and Psychological effects; our main concern is aggression that is associated with harsh sports, like wrestling, is looked at as an improving performance act. However, it is logical that more aggressiveness while training leads to more benefit, and makes the person achieve more and at the same time athletes would not feel their pain and fatigue. Never the less, studies indicated that steroids have biochemical foundation since in addition for the steroids effect on CNS and neuromuscular junction, a huge muscular man acting in an aggressive way will be noticed more than a small man acting aggressively since the larger man can do greater damage (Yesalis, 30)
Athletes’ Performance and appearance
After some doses of steroids a person will witness an increase in appetite, aggression, energy and rapid recovery from workouts. All of this happens at the beginning and without noticing any side effects (Ringhofer, 175). The main objective of athletes behind using steroids is that they need to increase their strength, increase muscle mass and reduce fat, also to increase their endurance and a faster recovery from exercise so they can practice more often (Yesalis, 40). All relevant information about steroids’ effect on performance is based on athletes experience and studies made on human. Based on these studies the effect is divided into three categories: Aerobic capacity and endurance, body composition, and strength performance (Yesalis, 41).
First, aerobic capacity performance is a result generated from the effect of steroids that it plays on the bone marrow thus providing more red blood cells that carry more oxygen (VO2 Max) (Yesalis, 42).
Second, strength performance where very athlete who is involved in taking steroids while training reported an increase in his strength, moreover high doses of steroids provide more effect (Yesalis, 42-43).
Finally, body composition; athletes who take steroids associated with training lead to increase in muscle and decrease in fat (Yesalis, 42).
Steroids have undesirable physical consequences, many changes happen for a person taking steroids starting from the appearance of acne on the face, oily skin, and increase in body hair and acceleration in male pattern boldness.
Muscle and bone injuries: When athletes put on lots of muscle, the tendons will not have the ability to attach to the bones resulting in injures.
Infertility: most men who use high doses become infertile while using steroids and for some time afterwards, perhaps six months or more. Several researchers believed that this is a risk of sterility with prolonged use high dosage levels, but no case has been documented (Yesalis, 52-53).
Heart Diseases: Doctors suspect that long-term abuse of steroids can cause unhealthy enlargement of the heart and a weakening of the main chamber, based on anecdotal reports. But no studies have demonstrated that link unequivocally.
Stroke and heart attack: Steroids abuse has emerged as a possible cause of thrombotic stroke, the kind caused by a blood clot. If demonstrated, it would be the first life threatening short-term effect. But no direct evidence exists (Yesalis, 53-56).
Prostate disease: Men may be at a higher risk of prostate cancer for taking the muscle-building hormones, but no links has been firmly established.
Liver Cancer and cancer: Specific steroids can cause a range of problems for the liver, including stop of the bile flow causing jaundice, yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. Steroids taken orally are harder on the liver because the liver must process the hormones before reaching the blood system (Yesalis, 56-58).
Genital changes both in males and females. In women: male pattern baldness, hairiness, voice deepening, decrease breast size and menstrual irregularities (Mishra, 4-5). In men: it reduces sperm count, impotence, development of breast, and shrinking of the testicles. From this we notice that steroids give men feminine characteristics, and give women masculine characteristics (Anabolic steroids, 2-3).
Others: Abdominal pains, hives. Chill, euphoria, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, muscle cramps, headache, unexplained weight loss/gain, nausea and vomiting, vomiting blood, bone pains, depression, gallstone (Mishra, 4-5).
Steroids effect on Adolescents: Steroids may stop the growth of the bones of the adolescents by closing the growth plates of the bones so kids will end up shorter than what they should have been (Anabolic steroids, 3).
Moreover, steroids have psychological effects starting with aggression; many steroid users reported feeling higher levels of aggression behavior. Some reported mood swings and psychotic episodes, or so-called “roid-range”. Never the less, steroids users reported an addiction phenomenon since users became more dependent on steroids (Yesalis, 58-61). In France a study made by Paris’ Monte Cristo drug treatment indicated that 18% of the 5000 high-level athletes are drug dependent and this was a consequence of sports doping, and that out of 13 million registered athletes 10% of them take performance-enhancing substances. Eventually this will lead to 300,000 addicted athletes (Racing Demons, 1). Athletes after they are forced to leave the athletic elite due to steroids penalties they suffer many psychological problems. They will feel lost and with a great depression since they moved from a glorified life style to the real world (Racing Demons, 2).
Preventing and treating steroid use
Obedience of the law
The use of anabolic steroids came to the international public attention after Ben Johnson, the 100-meter sprinter, was stripped from his gold medal and that was in the summer Olympics in Seoul 1988. After he was considered the symbol of the athletic world and raised the name of his country, Canada, high; tests indicated that Johnson used steroids and cheated in the competition (Mishra, 1).
Drug testing can be through testing blood, hair, saliva, and the most important one is urine test. And after they are tested they are not allowed to eat or drink any thing as long as it is sealed by the committee (Yesalis, 77). The idea of drug testing was first implemented on racehorses in 1910 after finding alkaloids in the saliva (Yesalis, 72). In the 1960 real drug testing came into action because of the use of chromatograph gas that is used to identify doping agents resulting in their metabolism effect on urine. Dr. Arnold Beckett, member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) medical commission, was the first to work on drug testing and it’s procedures. In 1963 the first list of the banned drugs was charted. After that drug testing officially started in 1968 Olympic winter games, but it was in a random and unorganized way (Yesalis, 74-75). While testing, doctors look for the main components of steroids since the body metabolizes them. So the current and the most accurate way of testing is through gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS). The components that are looked for is testosterone, but the body by itself produces testosterone and this does not indicate that the person is taking steroids. As a result testosterone is measured according to another hormone that is Epitestosterone (T/E ratio). Athletes are penalized if exceeded 6/1 ratio (Yesalis, 79-78). Drug testing is one of the ways to stop steroid using at schools, colleges, and Olympic and professional levels of sports. Drug testing indicates those who use banned drugs to increase performance and compete with those who use nothing, which is unfair. However, drug testing faces many barriers, one is that politics some times interfere to change some test results (Yesalis, 71), and another thing is that drug testing is too much costly, at least two million dollars are spent at each Olympic game testing (Yesalis, 103). And last but not least, some steroids last in the body for months, anther steroids for 36 hours, so if athletes who take steroids know the time when to be tested they just stop taking steroids for enough time just to clean their system (Yesalis, 84).
Federal and Committees Actions
The IOC that was trying to control the use of the performance-enhancing drug took a great step after lunching its world anti-doping authority in the late 1999. This step was supported by enough money to make tests not necessary through competitions, and authorized the blood enhancing drug test. Sydney Olympics showed that authorities are no more turning a blind eye after preventing 35 Chinese from participating in the Olympics and lot of athletics were caught and stripped from their medals after showing positive steroids tests (Noble, 1). Steroids users face so many disciplinary actions by the law and government of sports. First of all, athletes who test positive in steroids they are banned from going on in competing in his sport for two or more years. Second steroids trafficking were all state governments prevent trading or possession for steroids and for illegal use. Finally athletes who use steroids become so much aggressive and this cause them so many troubles with the law since they can not control their behavior, leading to illegal actions such as crimes and rapes (Yesalis, 101).
Education plays a major role in controlling steroids. Many schools added steroids wakefulness to their educational programs explaining their real dangers (Yesalis, 87). Oregon Model of education against steroids carried by the Oregon health sciences university, Portland, says that neither scare tactics is a way to stop athletes from taking steroids, nor a lecture at the beginning of the sports season. Their work emphasized more on the behavioral intent, body image, incentives toward drug use and arresting drug traders. The program did not only involve the athletes but also the parents, the teams and coaches so they will be able to create a healthy social sphere (Yesalis, 90). In addition, the ATLAS, Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids, prevention program approved that participants, relative to a control group, were less dragged to steroids and trying it since they know its side effects in addition to its benefits, as a result they know how to avoid it and concentrate more on their nutrition. The ATLAS program has fourteen sessions with three main concepts. First, weight training skills. Second, nutrition information for sports. Last, anabolic steroids education, like that of Oregon (Yesalis, 91).
Some times stopping steroids may cause major consequences, so the most important thing is to keep a bond with the athlete and provide him with proper education, counseling, and reassurance. For this reason the doctor treating the athlete must not be judgmental, he must be knowledgeable and understanding (Yesalis, 124). Anabolic steroids are considered to be addictive. A person taking steroids become dependent, since it changes their physical appearance and increase the effort to achieve more. Some athletes reported: ” When faced with the syringe, even my own worst fears did not matter, I could not stop. 17-inch arms were not enough, I want 20. And when I got to 20, I was sure that I would want 22,. .” Major problem with steroids treatment is that it costs so much of money (Yesalis, 116). Depression symptoms caused from quitting steroids sometimes leads to suicide. There are certain characteristics that show that a person is in need for help: First, retarded behavior associated with depressive disorder. Second, sudden change in moods such as euphoria, irritability, depression or anxiety. Third, slower and disorganized thinking. Fourth, Suicidal thoughts and last but not least, hallucinations (Yesalis, 121). Some patients experiencing uncontrolled aggression need anti-psychotic medication; others need hospitalization so they could have all the support needed. (Yesalis, 121-22).
In my opinion, I consider that athletes are misusing steroids. The main reason behind establishing steroids was to prevent body tissues from breaking down, and to help the elderly in regulating their hormones and many others to help them fighting against HIV & AIDS.
However, athletes adapted this invention for inappropriate purposes and to cheat and compete in an unfair way. Since, sport represents the finest in physical development and human striving and will, steroids use among athletes opposes this representation.
Society still does not fully recognize the negative effects that steroids have on the health of athletes and the way sports are played. I believe that every one is responsible for preventing steroids use including athletes, coaches and parents. Steroids cause a lot of harm that we must be aware of. First, an athlete may suffer physical and psychological harm because of steroids. Second, the use of steroids for no medical purposes is a violation of federal laws. Third, using anabolic steroids is cheating and violates the rules of virtually every sport. Finally, yet importantly, steroids contaminate sports because results are obtained by unnatural means.
Some people defend steroids use by stating that they give users a tremendous physical advantage. However, it is the price of that advantage that worries me. There are two important things to bear in mind about steroids. First, they are very powerful drugs that affect both mind and body. Second, when elite athletes take steroids to secretly enhance their physical sports performance they tarnish the purity of all sports competitions.
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