What kind of role model is Mark McGwire? Many people are familiar with hisseventy homeruns in one season, but do they know that he has been usingandrostenedione, a type of steroid that boosts testosterone levels? While it isperfectly legal in the United States and in the major leagues, it sends thewrong health message to athletes of every age. If young adults takeandrostenedione, or any other steroid, they may regret it for the rest of theirlives. Artificially high levels of testosterone have been shown to permanentlydamage the heart, trigger liver failure, and stunt a teenager’s growth (Gorman21-22). All are too great of a price for any sport.Order now
What it all comes down to isthat we need to educate both ourselves and all intercollegiate athletes aboutthe risks involved with steroid use. Anabolic-androgenic steroids are chemicalderivatives of the male sex hormones. Anabolic refers to the constructive orbuilding-up process of the body’s metabolism. Androgen refers to male-life ormasculinizing characteristics.
There are also two other types of steroids:estrogenic or corticosteroids. Estrogenic steroids produce female or feminizingcharacteristics, and corticosteroids originate in the cortex of the adrenalglands and have a shrinking effect. The latter is used to treat tissue stress,reduce inflammation, and to ease pain (Ringhofer 174). Users take steroids incycles lasting six to twelve weeks or more.
Stacking, or the use of more thanone type of steroid, helps to maximize strength gains, minimize side effects,and avoid detection. To build size, strength, and speed, athletes often use 10to 100 times the medical dosage (Yesalis xxv). Anabolic-androgens can be takeneither by mouth, by injection, or, more recently, by skin creams or patches(Cowart 25). The two main reasons that athletes use steroids are to improveathletic performance and to improve their appearance. In 1985, Anderson andMcKeag did the first study of college athletes correlated with steroid use. Theyinterviewed 2039 male and female athletes and discovered much new information.
Nine percent of football players used anabolic-androgen steroids. Other malesports included track and field (4%), baseball (4%), tennis (4%), and basketball(3%). The only women’s sport associated with steroid use was swimming, inwhich 1% were users. Five percent of Division I athletes were users in 1985, aswell as 4% of D-II and 2% of D-III athletes.
The same study was repeated in1991, in which 2282 athletes were questioned. Overall, steroid use slightlyincreased, especially since three women’s sports became associated withsteroid use. Swimming remained at 1%, but one percent of basketball players andtrack and field athletes also admitted to using the drugs. For men’s sports,the figures are the following: football (10%), track and field (4%), baseball(2%), basketball (2%), and tennis (2%). Five percent of both Division I and IIathletes admitted to using steroids, as well as 4% of D-III athletes (Yesalis60).
Since then, steroid use has decreased in Division I sports, but increasedamong females. Steroid use by adolescent girls in the US is low but significant(Cowart 61). The use of anabolic-androgenic steroids can lead to some cosmeticside effects. First, they have an effect of body hair. Body hair patterns aresteroid hormone dependent.
Normal anabolic-androgenic steroid use can lead to anincrease in facial hair growth and a gradual recession of the hairline. Baldingis accelerated with long-term administration to normal individuals with thebalding gene. Androgens increase sebaceous gland size and secretion rates, whichcan result in acne. Relatively weak androgens can increase sebum production andskin lipid cholesterol content also. Lipid cholesterol content appears at peaklevels in the sebum excretion after three or four weeks of androgenadministration (Yesalis 115-116).
Gynecomastia, the development of abnormalbreast tissue in males, “occurs in men when estrogen levels increase orandrogen levels decrease relative to the amount of estrogen present” (Yesalis116). Many other side effects occur that are not visible. Increase in appetite,energy, or aggressiveness, and a more rapid recovery from strenuous workouts maybe some of the first to appear. Anabolic-androgenic steroids can affect theliver and cardiovascular and reproductive systems. Liver function can bedamaged, resulting in jaundice, blood-filled cysts, and benign and malignanttumors. An increase in blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure can lead toearly development of heart disease, which can increase the risk of heart attacksand strokes.
For males, production of naturally occurring hormones may beincreased, which can result in shrinking testes, low sperm count, andinfertility. In females, male-like characteristics may appear, such as broaderbacks, wider shoulders, thicker waists, flatter chests, more body and facialhair, and deeper voices. The clitoris may enlarge, and menstrual cycles maybecome irregular or stop completely (Ringhofer 175). The central nervous systemcan also be affected by anabolic-androgenic steroids. An increase in mentalawareness, elevation in mood, improvement in memory and concentration, and areduction of sensations of fatigue can all be partly related to the stimulatoryeffects on the central nervous system (Yesalis 163).
When individualsdiscontinue use of steroids, their size and strength diminish, oftendramatically. These effects motivate renewed use (Yesalis 171). Physicaldependence on steroids, or any other drug, is characterized by symptoms ofwithdrawal (Yesalis 197). Dependent users are usually heavy users that more thanlikely began taking steroids before the age of sixteen. They complete more andlonger cycles of use, combine multiple anabolic steroid drugs simultaneously,and use injectable anabolic steroids.
In addition, they are more likely toperceive peers as steroid users. Dependence can occur within nine to twelvemonths after initial use. Severe dependence is marked by an excess of dependencysymptoms and social dysfunction. Withdrawal from anabolic-androgenic steroidscan be broken down into two phases. The first phase may begin and end in thefirst week.
It is characterized by increased pulse rate and blood pressure,chills, goose bumps, nausea, headaches, and dizziness. The individual is oftenanxious and irritable. In the second phase, which may begin in the first weekand last for months, the person shows depressive symptoms and has cravings (Yesalis205-6). The most critical task of prevention programs is to target the riskfactors of anabolic steroid dependence or abuse, which I hope that I have madeclear. Prevention programs must address the broader cultural context, especiallyin the U.
S. , that places high values on physical attractiveness and on winningcompetitions. Successful programs address these influences by providingalternatives for managing them. Treatment is needed when the severity ofdependence hinders the user from stopping safely on his or her own. The majorgoal of treatment is not only, abstinence from anabolic steroids, but alsorestoration of health (Yesalis 208).
As coaches of possible anabolic-androgenicsteroid users, I suggest three ways to educate your players. First, give a clearmessage that any non-medical use of steroids and other performance- orappearance-altering drugs is illegal and harmful to physical and emotionalhealth (Ringhofer 138). Promote the importance of participation, fun, and fairplay in sports instead of “win-at-all-costs” values. Lastly, point out thatthe physiques of body builders, and other role models like McGwire, do notrepresent healthy or necessarily attractive ideals for young people to follow.
Coaches need to accept the responsibility of making their players aware of thedangers of steroid use. If they do not, then who will?BibliographyCowart, Virgina. The Steroids Game. Chicago: Human Kinetics Publishers, 1998. Gorman, Christine.
“Muscle Madness. ” Time. 7 September 1998: 21-22. Ringhofer, Kevin R. Coaches Guide to Drugs and Sports.
Champaign: Human KineticsPublishers, 1996. Yesalis, Charles E. Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise. Champaign: Human Kinetics Publishers, 1996.