Essay Preview: Performance-Enhancing Drugs
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Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports
Every four years athletes from all over the world participate in the most globally known sporting event, namely the Olympics. The modern Olympic Games began in 1896 with the purpose of promoting peace and understanding among the worlds nations. It can be said that the event is the worlds largest exhibition of athletic skills and competitive spirit. This competitive spirit has been endangered by the introduction of performance-enhancing drugs in the late 1950s. Much debate has arisen over whether these substances should be allowed in sports. Investigations and time have proven that the ramifications of using performance enhancing drugs by athletes are numerous and are all negative in nature. Not only are the use of these drugs unethical, it also sends the wrong message to younger generations, and endangers the health of its consumers.
The use of performance enhancing drugs by athletes was first reported in the early 1950s when eastern European athletes began injecting a crude form of testosterone (the male hormone secreted by the testes) to increase their strength. Rumors of this new drug spread across the globe when Russian weightlifters began to surpass previous lifting world records. Dr. F John Ziegler investigated the allegations and upon his return to the United States, affirmed that he could help American athletes obtain similar results. In 1956 he manufactured the early derivation for testosterone in a drug called Dianabol. Soon, the drug spread in many countries, and was used primarily by athletes who relied heavily on size and strength for better performance. However the early developed drug still contained too many side effects, and scientists later discovered that by altering testosterone, the side effects could be lessened or removed. The resulting product was the current anabolic steroids which by the late 1950s and early 1960s were being manufactured and distributed by laboratories. (Taylor, 1991)
The side effects and potential hazards that anabolic steroids produce were first well documented in a publication by the New England Journal of Medicine in 1996, as the result of a controlled trial with high dose testosterone. These side effects included psychological and psychiatric conditions, skin disease, hypertension, stroke, and myocardial infraction. N Engl J Med (as cited in MacAuley, 1996).
The general effect that makes body building supplements so attractive, is the extra energy that allows the athlete to do a few more repetitions in the weight room, which in turn accelerates muscle growth. Nevertheless, the dangers far outweigh the benefits. Karen Springen, a writer for Newsweek stated that, “If it were so dangerous it wouldnt be used so widely” (Springen, Peyser, 1998). Contradicting Springens statement, Joannie M. Schrof, writer for U.S. News & World Report, quoted the head physician of the San Francisco Giants, William Straw, “Too many athletes decide to use supplements until they are proven dangerous, when they should be holding off until they are proven safe” (Schrof, 1998). The promises of vast strength and advantages that body building supplements produce, excites athletes to the point that they do not measure the consequences or wait to hear what the disadvantages could be.
Steroids and body building supplements alter and increase the bodys production of testosterone and chemicals that collaborate in one way or another to increase body mass and muscle. A misunderstanding is that because the body produces these chemicals naturally, the drugs must be safe. “The average adult male produces 35 to 50 milligrams of testosterone a week in his testes; athletes may inject 300 to 1,000 milligrams or more. That induces a kind of hyper masculinity, like adolescence…” (Adler, 2004, p.3). The pituitary gland regulates hormone production in the body. If an oversupply of testosterone occurs the gland signals the testes to shut down causing them to shrink. The body also converts some of the excess testosterone into estrogen, which can cause men to grow breasts. These side effects are unusual because sophisticated users take the drugs in cycles to avoid them. Another natural chemical produced by the body is creatine. Creatine “process… happens naturally: creatine is made in the liver and kidneys and [is] ingested in meat and fish. Yet athletes often consume 20 or more grams a day? The amount found in 20 eight-ounce steaks” (Springen, 1998). Laboratory produced creatine is a muscle building supplement that has become very popular in gyms across the country. Athletes who consume creatine are overloading the bodys natural production of it, risking serious side effects. The short-term side effects include: muscle cramping and tearing, dehydration, nausea, diarrhea, and other stomach discomforts. The attitude that “natural is safe” represents a very ignorant and naive perspective about the consumption of performance-enhancing drugs.
Despite the physiological consequences that performance-enhancing drugs can cause to the human body, athletes are still using them, and are facing yet another consequence, societys intolerance and scorn. Canadian athlete Ben Johnson admitted to using anabolic steroids after winning the one hundred meter race at the 1998 Olympics at Seoul. The medal was revoked and Johnsons reputation ruined. As a punishment he received a lifetime ban from the sport (Taylor, 1991). The Chinese swimming team was banned from participation in the PAN-Pacific swimming games of 1997, based on claims of competing nations that China was participating in drug use. In 1998, baseball star Mark McGuire, broke a record by hitting 70 home runs in that season. While McGuire was being interviewed, a reporter observed on the top shelf of his locker a bottle of androstenedione, which is a legal dietary supplement that produces testosterone, improving the bodys recovering time between work outs (American Academy of Pediatrics 1997). McGuire has since been labeled by the media and sporting community as a drug consumer and not deserving the world record of 70 home runs.
Recently the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) stated that 90% of professional athletes have at one time or another experimented with some form of illegal performance-enhancing drug. Performance enhancing drugs do not reflect the forms of human excellence which sports are intended to honor. If the purpose of sports is to test the endurance of the human body, that purpose itself rejects the idea of using help from unnatural sources. Using performance-enhancing