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Performance Enhancing Drugs

steroids-and-sportsMany sports fans are acquainted with the term “performance enhancing drugs”. What many of them do not know, however, is that at first, the term was first used primarily in reference to anabolic steroids. Now the term encompasses a wide variety of drugs besides anabolic steroids, including, but not limited to: human growth hormone, erythropoietin, diuretics, androstenedione, stimulants and creatine. The use of these drugs can be for many reasons, but the most common is pressure to perform. Performance enhancing drugs are seen as “cheating” by most, and can tarnish even the most famous of athlete’s careers, losing them many of their fans once the drugs are discovered.

Who

While the most talked about cases are found on the professional level, performance enhancing drugs can be found in the college and the high school level. In fact, in 2002, the Supreme Court ruled to allow the random testing of high school athletes on school teams. Only three states have created statewide programs using this; Texas, New Jersey, and Illinois. Random testing on the College and University level has greatly decreased the usage of performance enhancing drugs, as the student athletes are aware that if they are caught they can be removed from the team from anywhere from a year up until the end of college stay. The only exception to these rules is if the drug in question is specifically prescribed to the athlete by a doctor. Since more and more cases of use have been found, hospitals have been doing a more detailed look into the outcomes of using the drugs, both to remain cognizant of new drugs and the steps taken to hide them as well as to find the benefits versus the consequences of using them.

Why

Since the emergence of performance enhancing drugs, the competitive bar has been set higher and higher. Athletic associations, while publicly condemning performance enhancing drugs, are driving their athletes to resort to the drugs in order to keep up with the standards of achievement demanded of them as it is constantly raised. This then creates a pressure on athletes that pushes them to out-do their competitors, constantly pushing themselves to be the best, the strongest, the fastest, or the smartest. Athletes are starting to feel as though it becomes their only option if they going are to be able to compete at the top.

What

The kinds of performance enhancing drugs that are taken depend on the type of sport. The results from the different drugs are not always the same, hence different drugs for different outcomes or desires. For instance, creatine is taken by even the youngest of users, and, while not an actual steroid, it can be bought over-the-counter in order to boost performance in short bursts. This drug is most commonly used by wrestlers, sprinters, football players, and power lifters. Ephedrine is another drug. It is a stimulant that has been banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that reduces fatigue, aids in weight loss, and mental alertness. Anabolic steroids, the most common and well known performance enhancing drug, are synthetic versions of testosterone, assist in building endurance and strength. It can be found as a cream or gel and absorbed through the skin, or it can be injected through the buttocks or thigh.

Risk

There are a variety of different possible consequences that can come with using performance enhancing drugs. The most drastic of which can be stroke, heart attack, or even death. Other outcomes can be liver cancer, or irreversible damage to the liver and heart. Side effects from these drugs can be physical and psychological. Physically in general, bone growth can be stunted, facial bloating, and increased acne can be seen. For men, these drugs can lower sperm count, shrink testicles, cause an inability to achieve an erection and irreversible breast enlargement. In women, there can be a noted deepening of the voice, smaller breasts and excessive body hair found. Psychologically, there is increased aggression, attacks of rage or psychosis, a sense of invincibility, and excessively macho behavior occur. There is also marked irritability, impaired judgment, delusions and paranoid jealousy that can become apparent in users. HIV or other blood-borne infections are even possible if the user is taking the steroids with contaminated needles.