The Use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
The Use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports
In the last couple of years, many athletes in different sports have been caught using performance-enhancing drugs. When an athlete tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs, the athlete is usually well known. Also, there have been many instances never reported. It has come to a point where when an athlete is doing really well in his sport, speculations on the use of steroids or other performing-enhancing drugs arise. But the bothersome thing about sports today is that the speculations may very well be true. The use of steroids, and other performance-enhancing drugs, is dangerous. Although it has enhanced the entertainment value of sports, it also has diminished the value of sportsmanship.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports is widespread, becoming a matter of public knowledge and debate. It has gotten to the point where athletes from other countries are coming to the United States to buy performance-enhancing drugs that are illegal in their home countries. In his article "Performance-Enhancing Substances Raise Serious Ethical Questions for Athletes," Kirk Johnson states that as a result of publicity, sales of performance-enhancing products have increased and companies are swiftly creating new products. According to Johnson, "Met-Rx ... said that it was developing a gum that boosted testosterone ... while you chew. Another company has developed a steroid that dissolves under the tongue. Advertising copy on the Internet bursts with claims about everything from better state of mind to heightened sexual performance" (para. 18).
Athletes are also using dietary supplements that are advertised as having the same effects as prescription-only performance-enhancing drugs. Studies indicate that some supplements change into illegal steroids once they're taken into the body. In "Performance-Enhancing Dietary Supplements Are Dangerous," Gwen Knapp says, "supplement use has been linked to the deaths of several athletes, who exceeded the recommended dosages or mixed their intake of supplements with other medications" (para. 1). She states that supplements are easy to buy, and athletes are drawn to them as if they were Michael Jordan's latest shoe. At first, a chain of vitamin stores didn't want to stock androstenedione, but when Mark McGwire admitted to using it during his record-breaking season, it became the must have ingredient. Knapp believes that the problem with supplements is that they are almost unregulated.
The risky side effects of performance-enhancing drugs should be publicized. Steven Ungerleider asserts in his article "Steroids are Dangerous" that even though steroid use may increase an athlete's endurance and muscle growth, it also has many risky side effects. Anabolic steroids are made in many forms that can be taken orally, injected, or rubbed into the skin. In "Steroids Are Harmful," Doug West states that steroids have many serious physical and psychological consequences. They can cause cancer and strokes, stunt bone growth, and lead to aggression (para. 1). They also may induce a sense of invincibility and promote excessively macho behavior, and sometimes, attacks of rage or psychosis (Ungerleider para. 12). Men may also experience reduced sperm count, shrunken testicles, inability to achieve an erection, and irreversible breast enlargement. Women may develop deep voices and excessive body hair. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the more serious life-threatening effects of steroid abuse are heart attacks, strokes, and liver cancer (West para. 7). As far as the psychological toll, depression and addiction are other potential problems. Other problems include irritability, impaired judgment, delusions and paranoid jealousy (para. 8). Also, injecting steroids with contaminated needles creates a risk of HIV and other blood-borne infections (Ungerleider para. 13).
Why are athletes today, more athletic than athletes in the past? Some people say it's because a lot of athletes are using performance-enhancing drugs. In "Athletes Will Never Stop Using Performance-Enhancing Drugs," Matt Barnard states that people should recognize that even the best athletes go to great lengths in order to succeed. Definitely, one great length is the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Some athletes struggle to achieve and keep up with better competition. Though they condemn the use of drugs, international athletic associations and their corporate sponsors, covertly encourage drug use by demanding higher standards of achievement from athletes in order to reach fans and gain profit (Barnard para. 1).
However, Steve Olivier openly discourages the use of drugs. He states in his article "Banning Performance-Enhancing Drugs is Justified" that athletes should be prohibited from taking performance-enhancing substances because these substances can harm those who use them. According to Olivier, "the use of performance-enhancing substances is not only illegal, it is also morally reprehensible in that it violates the virtues of honesty and trustworthiness, which go to the heart of the fairness and integrity of competitive sport" (para. 4). It also can be harmful to others. The use of performing-enhancing drugs by role models can be an influence on young athletes. If a young athlete, who is easily influenced, sees his hero attaining success through the use of performance-enhancing drugs, he's going to perceive that as the only way to attain success.
The college level has been pretty successful at preventing the use of drugs. In "Testing for Steroids Has Been Effective at the College Level," Jack L. Copeland asserts that the drug testing program set up by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has helped reduce steroid use by college athletes. Since athletes know they will be tested, most avoid steroid use. The NCAA works with a laboratory that does an excellent job of identifying new performance-enhancing drugs and the substances that are taken to mask them. Also, the NCAA spends a lot of money on educational efforts that inform college athletes about banned drugs (para. 1). The NCAA's drug-testing effort not only seeks to limit the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but also the use of "street drugs." Positive tests for banned substances have only been around one percent for several years now (para. 16). It was a bold move into unmarked territory when the NCAA membership approved the NCAA's drug-testing program in 1986. Now, doubts about the program's ability to effectively discourage drug abuse have been satisfied. Mary Wilbert, NCAA program coordinator in health and safety, says, "The program does give support to those who don't want to use substances, and lets them feel they don't have to use them" (qtd in Copeland para. 66).
It is now thought that there should be a focus on drugs on the high school and lower levels. Greg Schwab recognizes in "Steroid Use Among High School Athletes is a Growing Problem" that the use of dietary supplements and performance-enhancing drugs among high school athletes is increasing tremendously. According to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2.7 percent of eighth- and tenth-graders and 2.9 percent of twelfth-graders admitted they had taken steroids at least once (Ungerleider para. 6). Recent studies have shown that the use of steroids among high school athletes has increased as much as sixty percent. West believes many young adults are using steroids to comply with cultural standards of manliness, to achieve the perfect body, or to boost athletic performance. The values taught by participation in a team or individual sport, the values of competition, teamwork, dedication, and cooperation, have been replaced by the value of excelling at the highest level. High school athletes are willing to do a lot in order to excel. According to Schwab, high school athletes use all sports supplements as part of their training regimen, and the supplements are too easy to get. "While I am no expert on this, I have always believed that dietary supplements can lead athletes to using performance-enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids" (Schwab para. 2). Also, professional athletes are huge influences. When a professional athlete admits to using steroids, some young athletes might think that it is part of what one must do to become an elite athlete. Schwab asserts that the use of steroids and supplements among high school athletes is a problem that needs to be addressed. In order to prevent the youth from going down the dead-end trail, it is the responsibility of the "parents, youth workers and educators ... to exert a more positive long-lasting influence on our kids by investing our time and ourselves in loving them for who they are while shattering the false images our culture convincingly sells regarding who they must be" (West para. 11).
Some people believe that steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs don't harm. In "Performance-Enhancing Dietary Supplements Are Safe," the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) states that within recommended dosage limits, performance-enhancing drugs, such as creatine and ephedra, are safe. People seek an "edge" to support and improve performance, and millions of people have found that sports supplements are one helpful tool. But performance-enhancing products shouldn't be promoted to children. Creatine is considered safe for healthy people, but it shouldn't be used by people with kidney problems (Council para. 2). According to studies by Columbia and Harvard, and a safety evaluation by Cantox, ephedra can be used safely. The CRN asserts that "media assertions that supplements are unregulated as a result of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act are falseThe Food and Drug Administration has the authority to regulate supplements in the same way that it regulates any other food product" (para. 1). According to Dr. Annette Dickinson, the CRN's vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs, "The truth is that dietary supplements are used by more than half of Americans, are beneficial in a variety of ways, and have a safety record comparable to that of any other food category" (qtd. in CRN, para. 7).
Today, it seems as if fans are starting to accept performance-enhancing drugs in sports. Barnard believes we will certainly accept drugs in sport, just as we accept them in medicine, cosmetics or farming. In 1998, Mark McGwire hit the most home runs in a single season, breaking what is considered the most prestigious sports record in America. He later admitted to using a performance-enhancing drug, androstenedione, during his record-breaking season. But instead of dooming baseball, he was credited with "reviving interest in America's first game, giving it a renewed sense of value after the player strikes of 1994" (Barnard para. 3).
Today, sports are fine without supernatural athletes; they have been for centuries. Sports are probably as popular as ever, providing entertainment to millions of fans all over the world. But the use of performance-enhancing drugs is violating the moral principles that govern sports. Athletes are admired for their skills and ability, but it should be their natural athleticism that gets them recognized. Athletes should practice and play as hard as they can in working to be successful. In its article, "Performance-Enhancing Drugs Tarnish Athletics," the European Commission asserts the belief that the use of performance-enhancing drugs "is at odds with the principle that athletes should work without artificial resources to achieve success" (para. 1). Some athletes should just ask themselves one question: Do we really want to harm our bodies and tarnish the image of sports in order to be successful?
Barnard, Matt. "Athletes Will Never Stop Using Performance-Enhancing Drugs." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 28 Nov. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
Copeland, Jack L. "Testing for Steroids Has Been Effective at the College Level." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 11 Dec. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
Council for Responsible Nutrition. "Performance-Enhancing Dietary Supplements Are Safe." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 5 Dec. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
European Commission. "Performance-Enhancing Drugs Tarnish Athletics." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 28 Nov. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
Gendin, Sidney. "Non-Steroid Users Should Be Barred from Athletic Competition." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 5 Dec. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
Johnson, Kirk. "Performance-Enhancing Substances Raise Serious Ethical Questions for Athletes." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 28 Nov. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
Knapp, Gwen. "Performance-Enhancing Dietary Supplements Are Dangerous." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 5 Dec. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
Lamb, Gregory M. "Genetic Enhancement of Athletes Might Harm Sports." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 11 Dec. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
Olivier, Steve. "Banning Performance-Enhancing Drugs is Justified." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 28 Nov. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
Schwab, Greg. "Steroid Use Among High School Athletes is a Growing Problem." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 11 Dec. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
Ungerleider, Steven. "Steroids Are Dangerous." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 28 Nov. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.
West, Doug. "Steroids Are Harmful." Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale Group. 2006. San Joaquin Delta College Library, Stockton, CA. 5 Dec. 2007 < http://galenet.galegroup.com >.