Question of the Week

November 24, 2003


"Athletes, whether they are young or old, professional or amateur, are always looking to gain an advantage over their opponents. The desire for an 'edge' exists in all sports, at all levels of play. Successful athletes rely on practice and hard work to increase their skill, speed, power, and ability. However, some athletes resort to drugs to improve their performance on the field or the court. Some high school and even middle school students are using steroids to gain an edge, improve their skill level, or become more athletic. Steroid use is not limited to males. More and more females are putting themselves at risk by using these drugs. It is important to know that using anabolic steroids not only is illegal, but it also can have serious side effects."

More and more students and athletes are exposing themselves to these "serious side effects." It's not just professional athletes, or even those on their way to a professional career, who are now willing to take their chances with anabolic steroids.

"Since the 1950s, some athletes have been taking anabolic steroids to build muscle and boost their athletic performance. Increasingly, other segments of the population also have been taking these compounds. The Monitoring the Future study, which is an annual survey of drug abuse among adolescents across the country, showed a significant increase from 1998 to 1999 in steroid abuse among middle school students...."

Some athletes attempt to get some short term benefits from anabolic steroids, keep (or get) an edge, and maintain eligibility. To do this, new steroids--ones that those who are testing are not yet aware of and, therefore, not yet able to test for--are being created. Athletes can then go undetected--for a time.

"NEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL is rechecking players' drug tests to look for the newly identified steroid THG. The steroid, at the center of an investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, previously was undetectable. But USADA received a used syringe containing the designer steroid from an anonymous coach and then began retesting samples..."

And it's not just football, baseball, and basketball, the high profile sports that one might expect...

"LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- Swimming's international governing body will retest samples from this year's world championships for the steroid THG....The decision affects swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo. The World Anti-Doping Agency said last month FINA would retest, but the swimming group waited before making its announcement. United States anti-doping officials discovered THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone, after an unnamed coach sent a syringe he says came from Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in California."

If this were just a legal issue, or an eligibility issue, then being able to slip through the cracks without getting caught would be cheating, and this would all be a matter of conscience. As it is, there are also serious physical consequences that can await those who choose steroids.

"Studies show that, over time, anabolic steroids can indeed take a heavy toll on a person's health. The abuse of oral or injectable steroids is associated with higher risks for heart attacks and strokes, and the abuse of most oral steroids is associated with increased risk for liver problems. Steroid abusers who share needles or use nonsterile techniques when they inject steroids are at risk for contracting dangerous infections, such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and bacterial endocarditis. Anabolic steroid abuse can also cause undesirable body changes. These include breast development and genital shrinking in men, masculinization of the body in women, and acne and hair loss in both sexes."

Even with all of the negative health effects, there are those who are still willing to risk the consequences for the chance to see what steroids will do for them.

"NEW YORK (AP) -- The test results are in, and they confirmed what many in baseball suspected: Some players were taking more than vitamins. Now, Major League Baseball will begin penalizing players for steroid use after learning that more than 5 percent of this year's tests came back positive."

With some professional athletes testing positive for illegal steroids, some teens and prospective professionals may perceive that the only way to "even the playing field" and "make it" themselves is to also take these drugs.

Question of the Week:
With some willing to jeopardize their health for this chance to get ahead, what does this mean for those who don't want to sacrifice their bodies--or their integrity--in order to gain the chance at an edge? What are some of the legal and ethical routes that most athletes take on the road to success? For those who do take their chances with steroids, what does it mean for their athletic futures and their future health? What do those faced with the locker room decision of whether or not to try anabolic steroids need to know about their possible effects? If those faced with the decision had all the facts, what choices would they make? How and why might the facts affect their decisions, if at all?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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