Steroids can equal big muscles and big money in professional sports, but they can also lead to big problems for those who use them.
Performance- enhancing drugs, more commonly known as PEDs, have increasingly become an issue within professional sports. Leagues are “protecting the integrity of the sport” and clamping down on athletes attempting to gain an advantage.
The debate on PEDs is more complicated than simply its morality. Professionally, athletes are always looking for ways to stay ahead of the competition and earn large contracts worth millions.
Some people believe that these unnatural advantages are warranted for the sport, if only at the professional level. One of these supporters is a philosophy student, and athlete in his own time, Jaymin Allen, 23.
“For professional use, I can understand it (and) I would do it myself if I were a professional,” said Allen. “I do believe to stay ahead of the curve, to guarantee a paycheck that you need to stay fit, that you need to stay fast and strong … and if you’re not taking them, I think you fall behind the people that are.”
That fear of falling behind the competition and of losing your job is a powerful motivator for athletes. Time is always against sports players and the human body does not last forever.
Making the most of that time by enhancing it with drugs can also lead to a shorter overall life. The risks in taking them do not stop at the possibility of getting caught, but also of future physical problems.
John Gleaves, Ph.D., is an assistant kinesiology professor at Cal State Fullerton with an emphasis of PEDs and doping in sports. He explains the differences in the short and long-term risks.
“Acute risks are highest with stimulants as overdosing is possible, especially when combined with exercise, dehydration, and tolerance,” said Gleaves. “Chronic use for EPO or anabolic steroids can have to do with altering normal physiological processes and damaging organs which handle the substances like liver and kidneys.”
Erythopoietin helps with endurance and performing for extended periods of time. Famous cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to using it during his professional career, and believes he could not have won seven consecutive Tour de France titles without cheating.
Some athletes do not seem to mind these side effects of unnaturally pushing their bodies to the limit and possibly shortening their lives. This can become dangerous as athletes push aside their health in an effort to win, no matter the cost.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is one that looks out for both the health of athletes and the integrity of sports when it administers tests for prohibited substances. USADA media relations manager Annie Skinner explains how substances make the list.
“A substance or method can be place on the Prohibited List if the substance or method meets at least two of the following three criteria: it has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance, it represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete, or it violates the spirit of the sport,” said Skinner.
While USADA currently works with Olympic athletes, it is also in collaboration with professional leagues to create cleaner sports through anti-doping research and development.
Former NBA forward Charles Barkley reminds his viewers on television that, “Father Time is the only undefeated competitor.” Unfortunately, some athletes play against him sooner than later, and must make the most of what time they are given.
With the added pressure of not knowing when it ends, the fine line athletes must walk is getting even thinner. Morality, money, ethics, power, fame and health, all come into question, and only the athletes can decide which is valued most.