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
(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
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.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum