Steroids were originally invented by Dr Ruzicka in the 1930s to help fight fatal diseases like AIDS or cancer. However, by the 1970s, their use had entered sports. Athletes all over the world were using steroids to improve their performance in sports, and even in the Olympics. But during the early 1980s, athletes had started abusing steroids so much that in the 1983 Olympics, 10 athletes were disqualified from taking part in any event.
Steroids are used in sports mainly to enhance the performance of athletes. Generally, the steroids used in sports are anabolic ones. Anabolic literally means “building or growing”. Such steroids are used by both amateur and professional athletes. Many steroids originated from testosterone – a male hormone. Medically, the steroids which are derived from this hormone are used for curative reasons. That is why steroids have been in use since much before they were discovered as ergogenic drugs. However, testosterone is not the only hormone that can improve performance. The Human Growth Hormone, or HGH, has also been used to make steroids.
Steroids: The early years
Testosterone is produced naturally in the body of any animal. It creates alertness and aggressiveness to improve performance. That is why early athletes used to take some form of medication to boost the production of testosterone in their body. The aborigines of Australia used to chew Pituri plants for this, early Norse warriors used to eat hallucinogenic mushrooms, and ancient Mayans used cocoa to enhance their abilities.
The people of ancient Greece had a more gruesome tradition, however. Before any competition, some athletes used to chew raw animal testicles. If that was unavailable, they also used to eat sesame seeds to boost their performance. There were other similar traditions all over the world for enhancing performance. The need for winning competitions can be extremely powerful. This is why, even in today’s world, athletes like to take steroids, amphetamines, or even animal organs like the erstwhile Greeks.
The first modern experiment done on testosterone was by a German zoologist and physiologist Arnold Adolph Berthold. His experiments were based on removing and transplanting the testicles of cockerels. Later, in 1931, Adolf Butenandt, a chemist from Germany, extracted the hormone androsterone from urine and purified it. After this, research on steroids started in full-fledge all over the world.
A few years later, in 1935, Butenandt, along with another chemist, Dr. Leopold Ruzicka, created the first synthetic testosterone. This discovery won them the Nobel Prize in chemistry in the year 1939. By 1940, humans had already received testosterone-propionate injections, and steroids had entered athletics in the Soviet Union. Such was the power of these chemicals, that the Soviet Union gained dominance over the entire sports world.
By 1958, another steroid called Dianabol had been approved for use by humans. After this, the use of steroids became widespread in sports as well as athletics. By the 1960s, innumerable new steroids had been developed and used by humans, and by the 1980s, steroids were freely available in local medical stores. Notably, majority of research on such steroids was carried out in Germany.
What are anabolic steroids?
Also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids or AAS, anabolic steroids are drugs that can produce effects similar to testosterone in the human body. They have the ability to increase lean muscle mass by building muscle tissue because they act like natural body hormones. They can increase the level of proteins inside cells and in skeletal muscles. They can also reinforce and maintain male characteristics like growth of body hair and testicles. These drugs can also increase vigor and attentiveness in athletes, which contributes to an improvement in their sports performance. But athletes should not equate this to an increase in their athletic prowess or agility.
Hormones in general have two effects on the human body – to increase the muscle tissue (anabolic effect), and to create sexual characteristics (androgenic effect). Anabolic steroids have been designed so that they concentrate on creating muscle mass while lessening the androgenic effect. They enable the body to better utilize protein so that the body’s tolerance to ordeal increases, and the body does not lose muscle mass while going through a hard training program.
Muscle mass is changed by these steroids in the following way. First, they boost protein production in the body. Proteins are what muscles are made of. Next, they affect the way the cortisol hormone acts on muscles, and slows down the break-down of existing muscle tissue. They also promote the differentiation of cells into muscle tissue rather than fat.
But when taken in high doses for a long time, anabolic steroids can produce highly adverse side effects in the human body. Though life-threatening situations have been less, the potential of harm from steroids is quite high. They can alter cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and can also cause liver damage. Teenagers are the ones who are at risk of danger from the use of steroids since it can result in stunted growth.
Using anabolic steroids in sports has been in controversy for a long time because of the adverse effects they have on the human body. AAS is the steroid which has been detected the most during drug tests for any competition. Their use is also termed as “doping” and banned by all major sports bodies.
Anabolic steroids in medicine
Anabolic steroids are different from medical steroids like hydrocortisone or prednisone, which are used for the treatment of diseases like skin inflammation or asthma. Chemically derived from testosterone, anabolic steroids can be used for treating diseases like some types of cancer, connective tissue disease, blood disorders, some sexual disorders, and intractable arthritis.
Some anabolic steroids may be administered in order to promote bone growth and appetite, induce puberty in males, diminish the wastage of muscles from diseases like AIDS, and can also be used as male contraceptive. They are available as injections, oral steroidpills, and skin patches. Apart from increasing strength and endurance, they can also be used to rehabilitate, as well as save the body from injuries.
Though steroid use has become commonplace these days, caution must be exerted while using these drugs. They should only be used or purchased if they are medically prescribed by experienced professionals. Illegal steroids should be avoided so that the body is protected from unnecessary side effects.
Why do sportspersons use steroids?
Due to all the medical advantages that steroids provide to an individual, athletes use them to achieve an edge in their performance. Apart from removing fatigue and letting them train for hours, steroids also act as a buffer to lactic acid which causes muscle pain during physical exertions. Steroids also contain the hormones that can boost quicker recovery from injuries. Since steroids can increase endurance levels multiple times, athletes find it easier to run faster and improve their performance in sports.
In women, greater effects can be achieved through much less doses of anabolic steroids. This is because the female body has only minimal amounts of male hormones and giving even a small dose of steroids can multiply their strength many times. This also makes women much more vulnerable to hormone damage from steroids since introducing steroids into a female’s body essentially means introducing male characteristics in her.
The performance improvements achieved through steroids do not look unreal, but are yet dramatic. Steroids’ contribution to muscle growth, decrease of fat and increased metabolic activities also make it more convenient for athletes to boost their performance. Since steroids are generally water-based, they can traverse the body in only two days and become untraceable. This is an important reason why most sportspersons choose to use steroids to build their physique as well as improve their performance.
Besides a desire to win, some athletes also have desires to break previous records or to do something spectacular that nobody has done yet. Audiences love excitement, and athletes want to meet the expectations of the audience. So it is unfair to blame only the athletes for taking steroids, because the expectations of the audiences are also a determining factor which spurs athletes to enhance their performance.
However, the best effects of steroids can only be achieved when taken alongside a rigorous training regime and a proper, healthy diet. Athletes also need a good coach and have to be genetically inclined for athletics. If any of these four factors are lacking, then optimal results cannot be achieved through the use of steroids.
It has been shown in studies that experienced weight-lifters can lift almost as much weight without steroids as with them, but this may be just because they feel psychologically weaker without steroids. Less experienced athletes, however, were able to lift much less without steroids than with them. These results prove that the actual potential of experienced professionals are not much influenced by steroids, but those who are still developing can gain a large enhancement in their performance from the use of steroids.
Judicious use of steroids
Since most people are negatively predisposed towards them, steroids have a negative impact on them. But that does not mean steroids are only harmful. Using steroids judiciously never poses any harm for the body. Steroids only become dangerous when abused. Taken under expert guidance and for the right motives, steroids can give athletes an edge over others in their performance. But, unless done right, it can result in a drastic consequence, the examples of which are strewn all across the history of sports.
Bodies cannot be built overnight, and athletes must not go beyond their bodily capabilities to achieve what they dream of. Taking steroids in excess can not only damage the athlete’s body, but can also lead him to serious life risk. Steroids are not the only factor that can determine the strength and structure of an athlete’s body. The main factors in determining these are the athlete’s genetic predisposition, amount of training undergone, and the diet being followed.
Before starting on steroids, an athlete must always seek medical supervision. There should always be a healthy amount of conversation between the athlete and his doctor. If the athlete in question has any health problem or allergies, then he should disclose that to his doctor and schedule his steroid usage accordingly. Taking legal steroids and high quality steroids is also important for the health of an athlete.
If the athlete is taking steroids in cycles, then he should make sure that he follows the schedule accurately. There is some danger of a high build-up of estrogen after each cycle due to the reduction of testosterone levels in the body. To avoid harm from excess estrogen levels, anti-estrogen medication may be taken.
The use or abuse of steroids lies in the hands of an athlete. By making judicious use of steroids, an athlete can reap maximum benefits in terms of sports performance. But by abusing the drug, he can put his life in danger.
Coming off steroids
Many athletes who have never used steroids before are apprehensive of starting. So, they research a lot on all types of steroids and also on steroid cycles before starting. But they never think of what will happen when they want to stop taking steroids and how their body will be affected. At some point, all athletes have to come off steroids. Understanding how and when to do it is important in order to stay away from health risks.
Similar to starting steroids, coming off steroids should also be planned properly. Being on steroids suppresses the natural production of testosterone. That is why it takes the body a lot of time to be back to normal levels of natural testosterone. Coming off steroids suddenly and without preparation places the body in a state of shock, and natural testosterone production may not resume. This is not only uncomfortable and inconvenient, but also extremely harmful for your health.
For all these reasons, athletes should look at proper post-cycle plans before coming off a steroid cycle safely. The plan should be adjusted depending on how heavily the athlete relies on steroids currently. Athletes may choose to use a SERM, or Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator, to boost their testosterone production. They can also choose HCG to do the same. Whether its HCG or SERM, athletes always need to know the proper way to implement these, and should not take any step before consulting expert medical professionals.
How are steroids taken?
Steroids are available as steroid injections, oral pills, and even inhalable substances. But there are three main ways in which steroids can be taken without harming the user’s health. The dosage differs in all these forms of steroids. They are called cycling, stacking, and pyramiding, and are discussed below.
- Cycling: In this method, steroids are administered in periodic cycles with gaps in between two cycles. Cycling is a sensible option if the cycles are created keeping in mind the way steroids work and how their advantages can be exploited. Initially, the cycles are started with hormones that the human body is already acquainted with. The number and dosage of steroids are increased slowly so that if the athlete’s body gives any adverse reaction, its cause can be determined easily. Once the athlete is used to the intake of hormones, steroids can be used more extensively.
- Stacking: In this method, more than one steroid is consumed at a time. Stacking is used to get optimal results out of the steroid cycles. The stacking dosage of the drugs varies from person to person because the build of every human body is different. The dosage depends on the type of diet and exercise plan that the athlete is currently following. If the body rejects the drugs before it has started to give any benefits, then the drugs and dosage are altered. Stacking can sometimes result in side-effects, but these can be avoided by including non-anabolic steroids in the cycle. For optimal results in male athletes, the stack should contain Sustanon 250 and Dianabol.
- Pyramiding: This is the oldest and most rarely used method of taking steroids these days. In this, athletes start with small doses and the frequency is increased slowly till a given dose, after which the dosage is diminished again till it reaches zero. This helps in resuming normal activities more easily because gradually decreasing the dosage gives the body time to adjust to normal life and resume normal activities. Some athletes believe that this method is inefficient because the user has to reduce the dosage as soon as the steroids start taking effect. But steroids are still administered this way for various reasons.
Normally, steroids are taken in doses of 1 to 5 mg. Most are taken as pills, and the ones that need to be readily absorbed are injected. However, some athletes have the misconception that higher doses will result in better performance. This is why athletes take steroids in large doses – more than 10 times the daily allowed limit – and sometimes even combined with other drugs like depressants, stimulants, anti-inflammatory substances, pain killers, and other hormones. They also repeat the dosages through periods of 6-12 weeks and then leave a gap of several weeks before resuming the steroid cycle.
Athletes are of the belief that taking steroids in this way will not only help them build their bodies, but also help them escape being detected in drug tests. Many athletes continue taking steroids for many months and some even for years.
Facts about steroids
In the quest of gaining quick muscle mass and physical strength, athletes all over the world have adopted the use of steroids. These can be used in bodybuilding and sports, but their use should always be monitored. Before using steroids, athletes should always gain a complete insight as to what suits them best, and what are the side effects associated with the steroids they are using. Here are some facts about steroids and their use as well as steroid side effects.
What are steroids?
Steroids are basically compounds that are made up of corticosteroids, sex hormones, and cholesterol. They can help the human body in gaining muscle mass by making the cell membranes rigid and by forming proteins, bile acids, and Vitamin D. They can also have androgenic effects on the human body. Long-term or excessive steroid use can be harmful for the body since they can increase cholesterol levels, induce liver damage, and high blood pressure. However, when taken with a proper diet, steroids can contribute substantially in increasing lean muscle and muscular strength.
How are steroids administered?
Dosage of steroids depends on the physical condition of a person and can vary from person to person. A person can be administered more than one steroid at a time, but in that case, the dosage has to be monitored. Also, the steroids need to complement what the other steroids are doing in order to boost performance. Otherwise, it can lead to serious side effects.
Steroids are generally administered in four common ways – injections, oral pills, skin patches, and topical creams – among which, the most convenient administration is through oral pills. Testosterone that is administered orally is absorbed by the body easily. Injecting testosterone is also possible, but it takes a long time to be absorbed by the body and to produce results. The dosage also has to be monitored carefully, so that a constant level of the hormone is maintained in the body. Steroids are generally injected into the muscle, and not into the bloodstream. This prevents the blood from suddenly clotting inside the vein, or causing sudden drastic change in behavior.
Steroids can also be administered through skin patches. These patches are positioned on the skin of the athlete through adhesives to provide a constant supply of the steroids. The topical creams available are generally expensive, but provide low level of absorption, and are considered inefficient. They take about 6 hours to be fully absorbed, so athletes have to be very careful lest the cream gets washed off.
The effectiveness of steroids generally remains the same irrespective of the method of administration. Oral administrations in high doses can cause liver damage. For all these reasons, steroids are generally administered through injections.
What are the side effects of steroids?
When overused, steroids can produce adverse side effects, and depending on how long the steroids were used, the effects can become irreversible. The most common is the development of characteristics of the opposite sex. Men develop feminine characteristics whereas women develop masculine characteristics. Steroids can also cause early sexual maturity and increased duration and frequency of erections.
Some steroids like testosterone can also cause diseases of the heart and the coronary artery. If taken by adolescents in high doses, they can stop the growth of bones and result in a stunted appearance. They can also alter the size and shape of the heart, which impairs the way the heart functions. These can also cause sudden death due to cardiac diseases.
Steroids also have psychiatric side effects like mania and aggression. Psychosis is also possible through steroid abuse. Other disorders like mood disturbances, dependence syndromes, anxiety, hostility and paranoid ideation are also possible through long term steroid abuse. Hypomania or increased aggression is a common side effect of anabolic steroid abuse. This results in violent behavior in male athletes.
Though less common, and yet to be proven, steroid abuse has also been associated with depression and consequent suicide. A study done in 1992 (“Anabolic-androgenic steroids and psychiatric-related effects: a review” by Canadian Journal of Psychiatry) showed that steroid use as well as the cessation of steroid use can both result in depression, and steroids can also be the cause of the relief from depression.
Steroids also have the potential for addiction. Though not as dangerous as drugs like cocaine or heroin, testosterone and other similar steroids can cause addiction in small amounts.
How can danger be avoided?
- Use of separate needles: Every time an athlete decides to give himself a dose of steroids, he should use separate needles. Boiling removes germs from the needles, but it does not remove the tissue and blood that remain in the inner part of the needles. Needles also become less sharp with every injection, which means it becomes more painful every time. Apart from this, athletes should never share needles with any other person.
- Following medical advice: To avoid adverse side effects, athletes should always seek medical advice before starting a new course of steroids. If they are prescribed a certain dosage, they should always follow it and should never take any steroid that has not been prescribed to them.
- Adjustments after a steroid cycle: When coming out of a steroid cycle, athletes should make necessary adjustments in their regimen so that their body can adapt to the change. Workout schedule and calorie intake may be adjusted. If advised by a medical practitioner, anti-estrogen can be used to avoid any side effects.
- Determination of the duration of a steroid cycle: Tolerance levels differ in different human beings. Also, the tolerance level of a specific human being to different steroids may be different. This is why, a steroid cycle should always be determined depending on the athlete’s bodily functions and the steroid in question, after seeking medical advice.
- Being ethical: Following the instructions of usage as well as using only legal steroids can help a lot in terms of reducing adverse side effects. Seeking medical help whenever necessary can help an athlete use steroids to build his body, rather than destroying it.
History of steroid use in sports
Use of steroids in sports or athletics can be dated back to many centuries. In the early times, since they were not available as medicines, athletes found natural substances that would help them in increasing their vigor and boost their performance during competitions. The compelling urge of winning is still the same in athletes today, and some even resort to foolish actions in order to maintain their winning streak. Here is a timeline view of some of the events that occurred in the history of steroid-use in sports.
In the early 1900s, running a marathon was considered to be the ultimate test of human endurance. This is the most apparent reason why doping was used to win the marathon in the 1904 Olympics.
The winner, Thomas Hicks, was a UK-born American athlete. He was falling behind in the race, so his coach decided to provide him a dose of brandy, along with a shot of strychnine – a chemical that is used as rat poison. Strychnine is known to stimulate muscles, but this stimulation lasted only for a short while. This made his coach give him a second dose of the drug, which got him through the finish line, but he collapsed immediately after that.
He had in fact finished second, but the athlete who had reached the finish line first had done so after riding in a car for most of the running track. He was disqualified for this desperate attempt of winning, and Hicks was ruled the winner afterwards.
The first anabolic steroid – Dianabol – was released in the US after being approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This steroid was discovered by Dr John Bosley Ziegler after experimenting with weightlifters. The steroid was created by keeping the body-building properties of testosterone intact, while minimizing its negative effects. But shortly before his death in 1983, Dr Ziegler said that he wished that he had never created the steroid, because he did not want it to be abused the way some athletes do today.
Tommy Simpson, a British cyclist who was known for extensive drug use, died while riding in the 13th stage of a Tour de France cycling event. He was taking excessive amounts of brandy and amphetamine to defy the effects of a disease that he had, and continued to ride until he collapsed. His death prompted the International Olympic Committee to place stringent rules against the use of steroids and drugs in sports. These rules are made keeping in mind three principles – the health of the sportspersons should be protected, sports and medical ethics should be upheld, and all competing sportspersons should be allowed to compete with equality.
During this period, athletes from East Germany gained dominance in many Olympic disciplines, including swimming and speed skating. The female athletes were even more efficient. They won a lot of gold medals as well as created new world records. They had maintained this dominance for almost 20 years before their performance started to degrade. This long performance streak was the reason they were accused of sports doping by many people. But most of these accusations never could be proven while they were in form. This is the reason why the medals and records held by East Germany are still valid.
When East Germany was a separate republic, they also had a separate Olympic committee. Later, in the 1990s, during the reunification of the country, numerous documents from the erstwhile administration were revealed. These documents showed the evidence of a full-fledged steroid enhanced program for training the athletes for the Olympics. These steroids were administered to the athletes to improve their performance, but often, they were unaware of it. Even child athletes were not excluded from this program. The Stasi security force was in charge of overseeing this operation, and also of providing the drugs.
The International Olympics Committee banned anabolic steroids in 1975. After this, the scientists found a novel way to test for steroids in the advent of the Pan Am Games in 1983. This caught lots of competitors by surprise. The number of athletes who failed the test was 19. As a result, several American contestants suddenly withdrew their name from the games and came back to the US. Several other contestants also left the competition without any proper reason.
In the 1988 Seoul Games, the Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson won the 100-meter race, and also set a world record in the same. But later in a drug test, he was found to have taken steroids in order to win the race. Though he said he had used the steroids only during training, and only because he wanted to keep up with his opponents, he was disqualified from the race. He was also stripped of his medal as well as his world record honors, and the medal was given to the second place holder – Carl Lewis. He also admitted later that he had used steroids when he made a world record in 1987. This resulted in his previous record being taken away from him as well.
Several years later, facts came to light that Lewis was also using steroids during the 1988 Seoul Games, and had tested positive in a number of drug tests before the games. He was, however, allowed to take part in the games since the USOC ruled that his steroid use was inadvertent. Not only Lewis, but five of the finalists of the 1988 Seoul games were ruled to have used steroids at some point or the other in their careers, apart from the race in question.
During this time, Tony Mandarich was supposed to be the most promising offensive lineman for the United States National Football League. He had a great stature and great abilities in weightlifting as well. However, he admitted in 2008 that he was on steroids all through his college days, and also during the Rose Bowl in 1989. But in the NFL, he did not use any steroids, which is why his performance was supposed to have dropped. He had been initially signed on a contract for 4 years, but after 3 seasons of poor performance, his contract was cancelled.
Lyle Alzado, a famous hitter in the NFL, admitted in 1991 that he had been using steroids all throughout his football career. He said that almost all the athletes he was acquainted with had used steroids at some point or other in their careers. One of the most intimidating defense players, Lyle Alzado was one of the first athletes who publicly admitted the use of anabolic steroids. Some reports also said that he was on natural growth hormone which was harvested from human cadavers rather than synthetic ones. He had also blamed his steroid use for being the reason behind his brain cancer. Doctors had never associated his cancer with his steroid use, but after he died in 1992 athletes all over the world were shocked and warned about steroid use.
Also, in 1991, steroids were banned from Major League Baseball. But there were no procedures set for enforcement or testing for steroids. This is why most of the baseball professionals were unaware of this regulation at the time, and players continued to be on steroids.
In the Rome FINA World Championships held in 1994, Chinese swimmers won 12 out of the 16 gold medals. This cast a wave of suspicion towards them. Later that year, in the Asian Games, Chinese swimmers dominated. But after the Asian Games were over, 11 players tested positive for PEDs, and were stripped of the 22 medals they had won.
Ken Caminiti, a baseball player of Astros admitted having been on steroids for the greater part of his career, and also in 1996 when he had won the Most Valuable Player award. This confession came in 2002 – one year post retirement from baseball. He also had problems with other drugs like cocaine and alcohol. He had a heart attack because of extensive use of drugs, and passed away two years after he had made this confession.
In the Japan Olympics in 1998, snowboarding was officially added as an event to the games. The first gold medal in this sport was awarded to the Canadian athlete Ross Rebagliati for the event Grand Slalom. But Rebagliati had used marijuana before the competition, and so he failed the drug test. He was disqualified from the games, but since the substance is not considered to be a performance enhancer, his medal was not taken away from him.
In 1998, in another steroid scandal, a competitor in the Festina cycling team was arrested just before the start of the Tour de France. They were carrying doping drugs in their luggage – anabolic steroids in them. After the initial discovery, every participant of the race was checked and was found to be carrying illegal performance enhancing drugs. As a result, every member was disqualified from the race. Two years later, one of these participants, Richard Virenque finished third in a race.
This case entangled the other cycling teams and their coaches as well, and brought into focus the widespread use of doping substances by cyclists. Since then, almost every cyclist taking part in the Tour de France has been accused of steroid-use.
Another notable case occurred in 1998 where Michelle Smith, an Irish swimmer, poured whiskey into her urine sample to cover the presence of PEDs. However, she was later suspended for 4 years from swimming.
In 2003, the famous BALCO investigation was carried out. Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, also called BALCO, was raided, and investigators found and seized a lot of medical as well as financial documents. Among these documents were the records of no less than 4 athletes, including Marion Jones (sprinter) and Barry Bonds. Jones was forced to give up the 5 medals she won in the Olympics of 2005. She was also imprisoned for 2 years on the grounds of check fraud and perjury. Barry Bonds was indicted some years later, and the evidence of this BALCO investigation was held against him.
Later that year, Dwain Chambers, the British sprinter, was detected to have used steroids. As a result, he was not only suspended from all games for 2 years, but also banned for life from the Olympics. He and his teammates from the 2002 World Championships were also forced to give up all the medals they had won during the championship. Apart from all this, the 100m record that Chambers set in 2003 was annulled, and he also had to return all the prize money he won.
Also, in 2003, the Major League Baseball decided to conduct a pilot drug test on athletes to determine whether a stricter steroid policy needed to be enforced. The test program did not intend to reveal the names of players who failed the test, but the government investigators somehow laid their hands on the list of 104 players who failed the tests, and the names of those players came out. Though they were never punished, the media still identifies those players as steroid users.
Jose Canseco released his biography named “Juiced”, in which he not only confesses having used steroids himself during his baseball career, but also admits to have given his teammates injections of illegal performance enhancers. This book has been made fun of, but later, the claims made by it have been confirmed by investigations conducted separately.
That very year, several MLB players were called by the House Government Reform Committee to confirm their use of steroids in sports. Many denied, but gradually one by one all of them were found to have used steroids at some point or the other.
Bryan Berard was the first hockey player in the National Hockey League to have tested positive for steroids. Later, in 2008, when he tested positive again, the USADA banned him for 2 years from playing in international games. But since this test was not conducted by the NHL, he was not debarred from the league.
A month later, Zach Lund – an American skeleton racer – is debarred from playing in the winter Olympics that year because he tested affirmative for Finasteride. This was a banned substance, but was supposedly in his hair growth stimulant. Nevertheless, he was banned for a year from any athletic competition.
Later in the year, American cyclist Floyd Landis won the Tour de France, but tested positive for steroids. This led to his title being taken away from him and him being suspended to 2 years. This suspension, and a lot of appeals, finally ended his career. Then he admitted to having used steroids to win, but he also accused Lance Armstrong (7-time winner of the Tour de France) to have used blood doping in order to improve his performance. Investigations on Lance Armstrong are still going on, but nothing has been proved yet. Armstrong himself maintains that he had never used anything illegal to achieve victory.
In December, 2006, President Bush passed a law which banned gene doping (genetic modification to improve performance) from all kinds of sports competitions.
WWE wrestler Chris Benoit killed his wife and son, and then hanged himself after having injected himself with steroids. At the time of death, the testosterone level in his blood was 10 times higher than normal. However, the connection between his steroid intake and his suicide and murder are still unclear.
That same year, in a survey (“Children of Doping Athletes Deformed,” Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 1, 2007), families of 52 German athletes, including their children, were found to have serious health problems. These athletes were administered steroids during the 1970s without their knowledge.
Later that year Martina Hingis, world famous tennis player, tested positive for cocaine in a urine test. She was banned for two years from playing. Learning of this, she voluntarily retired from tennis after claiming that she had never used cocaine. She also claimed that her urine samples must have been improperly handled and volunteers for a hair test for drugs, in which she came out clean. She said that she had retired because she did not want to go into the hassles of fighting the two year ban or the doping investigators.
Before the Beijing Olympics that year, seven female Russian athletes were suspended for using steroids and replacing their urine with someone else’s in order to avoid detection. The year 2008 also saw Major League Soccer hand out its very first suspensions for the use of steroids. Also, 6 players in the National Football League were suspended for 4 games on the grounds of taking a masking agent for drugs. The players, however, continued to claim that they were innocent, and that the chemical was in a medicine that they took for weight loss.
Alex Rodriguez, a Texas Rangers member, confessed during spring training that he had been on performance enhancing drugs when he was still a Ranger. Earlier in the year, Michael Phelps – a renowned swimmer, was also found smoking marijuana in a party, and was suspended from competing for three months.
In another investigation Richard Gasquet, a French tennis player, was detected with cocaine in his urine sample. However, he claimed that he had kissed a girl at a night club and that girl had taken cocaine prior to the kiss. That is how the cocaine entered his body. The investigators ruled that the amount of cocaine found in his samples was negligible and cleared him.
Having been banned and suspended off and on for doping previously, Tyler Hilton, American cyclist, retired from sports after receiving a ban for eight years. He was banned on the grounds of having knowingly taken performance enhancing steroids. The same year, Manny Ramirez was banned from 50 games after having failed a steroid test.
Pitcher Roger Clemens faced an indictment from a federal grand jury on the grounds of lying to the congress about never having taken performance enhancing drugs in his life. The indictment charged the pitcher of having lied thrice, including once during a hearing that was nationally broadcasted on television. He could face up to 30 years of jail time had he been convicted, but current sentencing laws are not so stringent.
Barry Bonds is finally found guilty, and the BALCO investigation evidences are used against him. He was also convicted of having obstructed justice when he gave deceptive answers for his testimony. This case also concluded the BALCO investigations.
After having been banned from 50 games in 2009, Manny Ramirez finally retired from sports when he failed a second drug test in 2011. There was a possibility that this time he would be banned from 100 games. Rather than serve the ban or appeal against it, Ramirez chose to retire.
Later that year, Mike Jacobs became the first professional baseball player who officially tested positive for HGH or human growth hormone. He was suspended for 50 games that season.
Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador was stripped of the honor of being the winner of the 2010 Tour de France and was also given a two year ban after he was found guilty of having used steroids. Also, Lance Armstrong was finally stripped of all his Tour de France titles since he refused to fight the doping allegations against him.
Alex Rodriguez, along with 12 other players, was also suspended till 2014 for violating MLB policies for steroids.
Media spotlight on legalizing steroids in professional sports
The subject of steroid use in sports has long been under debate. Recently, people have been arguing for the legalization of steroid use in sports. People who oppose steroid use are generally of the view that the use of steroids provides an unfair advantage to the ones using them over their opponents. Other people say that using steroids not only endangers the health of those who use them, but also encourages younger people to use them.
On the other hand, the supporters of performance enhancing drugs or PEDs say that the health risk of athletes due to use of steroids is overstated, and when drugs and steroids can be used to treat diseases, then it ought to be legal in sports too. Besides, even after laying down strict punishments and laws against steroid use, the number of athletes who use steroids has hardly reduced.
Numerous players and athletes in various different sports are caught every year using unlawful substances to improve their performance. This is why the supporters of steroids feel that bringing fair competition in sports is never possible by banning steroids. Conversely, if steroids are legalized, then all the athletes will be able to use steroids without fear, and will be able to play fair.
Debate in the Intelligence Squared US Series
As a part of this series, six steroid specialists took part in debates in January, 2008. In these debates, three specialists argued for the proposition of accepting steroid use in sports competitions, while the other three argued against it. The event took place in New York City, at the Asia Society and Museum. The event was moderated by Bob Costas – an experienced sportscaster, who also hosts sports shows in HBO and NBC.
In this event, audience polls were held before and after the debate, which showed a drastic difference in the results. The number of people who were against the use of steroids before the debate was 63 per cent. But that number fell to 59 per cent after the debate was over. Similarly, the number of people in favor of the proposition was 18 per cent before the debate, which increased to 37 per cent after it. The number of people who were undecided was 19 per cent, which fell to 4 per cent after the debate.
From the point of view of sports organizations
Currently, professional sports bodies are always trying to find out new and complicated laws where there would be no loopholes through which athletes can find a way to use steroids. They are also too busy testing people for illegal substances and PEDs during sports competitions. If steroid use were legalized, it would take a lot of their worries off them.
At present, it is also unclear as to what substances are appropriate and what are inappropriate as performance enhancers. For example, caffeine use is not barred when methamphetamine and ephedrine are. Also, creatine is allowed as a substance required for building muscles, but HGH, a substance which can help in recovery of injury, is not. By legalizing steroids, these bodies will not have to be busy in determining the absolute level at which performance enhancement should be allowed.
According to athletes and other people interested in steroids, the issue of health risks due to steroid use is only as major as the chance of getting run over by a car, or sustaining some sports injury. Apart from this stand, athletes also think that legalizing steroid use would enable them to procure and use good quality performance enhancers rather than the second-rate black market items they have to use now.
Additionally, the Hall of Fame poll that is held for baseball players each year disqualifies players who are found to have the slightest history of steroid use. But in reality, the ones who are not disqualified may be just as guilty as those who were caught. This adds to the support of legalizing steroids, as that would make sure everyone is treated just the same and no one is disqualified on the grounds of steroid use.
From the business viewpoint
Steroids can be investments with high rewards. During the steroid era of baseball, people were much more interested in watching the sport. When Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ record of home run, people became so excited over baseball that the games were always houseful and game mementos also always sold out. Apart from this, during the steroid era, the franchise values rose from $140 million in the year 1994 to $332 million in 2004. It is said that baseball revenues survived the 1994-1995 strike only because of steroids. Not only in baseball, if steroids are legalized in other sports, businesses can gain a favorable outcome from it and generate much more profits.