09 Jun 2011

Sample essay: Should steroid use be legalized in sports


Instances of steroid use by sportsmen were first observed during the 1954 World weightlifting Championships. The Soviet team had first taken part in the 1952 Olympics at Helsinki and their performance was not noticed but they put up a remarkable performance in 1954 when the Soviet team dominated in most of the weightlifting categories. It turned out that the Soviet team was taking testosterone injections to enhance their performance. There have also been unsubstantiated reports that testosterone was used by the German team during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. However, in the case of the Soviet team the issue was confirmed because discarded syringes were found in the dressing rooms of team members. At the same time, it is also known that anabolic substances were used to enhance performances even during the first Olympics that were held in Greece. Athletes would ingest certain foods and herbs and it is known that they were advised to only meat for several months before sports events.

It is known that meat, which contains high content of Creatine and Vitamin B considerably enhances and improves athletes’ performance. Use of testosterone is documented as far back as 775 BC. Olympic athletes were encouraged to consume even sheep testicle that was known to be a source of testosterone. During ancient periods athletes did not participate in events to win medals or for the reason that they loved the games, but took part because they received exceptionally big financial rewards for every event that was won. This paper will examine issues relating to the chemical make up, principles of muscle building and preparation of steroids and why they are controlled substances. The adverse physical and mental risks along with drug testing and normal medical uses for anabolic steroids and growth hormones will also be examined. It is also important in this context to discuss the research efforts concerning use and abuse of steroids and the legal consequences of the same.

Main Body

In the current sports environment, professional athletes are known to have well paid contracts and because steroids have the potential to improve performances and to heal injuries, it is not surprising that research activities have been enhanced to develop better and acceptable alternatives for testosterone. The Germans had started taking steroids during the 1960s in order to improve their performance in sports. Dr. Manfred Hoeppner had recommended in his 1968 report to the East German government that athletes should be administered steroids. Consequently, in the following few decades, German athletes dominated most world sporting events across the world and took away the maximum number of medals and awards. Other documented records in this regard reveal that Thomas Hicks had ingested brandy with strychnine and cocaine when he won the marathon in the 1904 Olympics. A few decades later American athletes were found to be using nitroglycerine in order to expand their heart valves. Later, athletes started using Benzidrine, which is an amphetamine (Daniels, 2003).

However, no compound was found to be as effective and powerful as anabolic steroids, which were invented by Dr. Ziegler. Any athlete looking for extra advantages could make use of anabolic steroids in order to perform better. By ingesting anabolic steroids athletes, football players, weight lifters and body builders could train harder and for longer periods with much better results. Steroids have the ability to enhance protein synthesis and allow new muscles to develop much faster as compared to other conventional methods. The enhanced muscle power and strength of sports participants allowed them to perform better and get higher financial rewards. Under such circumstances, the race for steroids intensified and athletes across the world wanted to know of the sources from where to get such substances. Several nations entered the race to develop these substances and to develop procedures for using them. In 1968, the World Health Organization made official complaints about the excessive production of steroids and their use. Pharmaceutical firms had started offering kickbacks to doctors for prescribing anabolic steroids. The practice was largely adopted in countries such as Jamaica and Kenya whose athletes started performing exceptionally in Olympic Games.

During the same period, professional games in the US had gained popularity and athletes were able to support themselves on the basis of their performance in sports. The International Olympics Council issued a ban on anabolic substances and provisions were made for penalizing athletes for breaking the ban. In 1972, Rick de Mont, an American swimmer was caught using ephedrine, which was an approved medicine for treating asthma. Arnold Schwarzenegger was able to win the Mr. Olympic title by allegedly taking steroids. The use of steroids in Olympic Games continued for some decades and the International Olympic Committee was virtually ineffective in imposing its ban on steroids. Athletes had also found novel ways to avoid detection and were caught only when disclosure was made about them by team mates or others. Anabolic steroids had become a common feature by the 1990s and sporting professionals as well as school level sports participants had started taking steroids in large numbers (American College of Sport Medicine, 2002).

The chemical makeup and preparation of steroids can be better understood from the fact that they are lipophilic composites of low molecular weigh that are obtained from cholesterol. Steroids are produced primarily through a process whereby endocrine glands such as adrenals, ovary and testis are synthesized and then made to enter the blood stream. They impact the central nervous system and the peripheral tissues while coordinating behavioral and physiological response for the required biological objective. In spite of the comparatively simple nature of steroids, they have the potential to occur in different biological and active conditions. Such characteristics can occur because of a large number of secreted compounds through the process of synthesizing steroid tissues. Moreover, circulating tissues have the potential to get increasingly metabolized indirectly on organs such as the liver and its tissues whereby steroids get converted into active forms before they become effective in terms of their biological response (Yesalis, 2000).

It is known that testosterone is a male hormone and plays a major role in building muscles. Therefore, athletes take extra doses of testosterone, which has to be injected in the body. But it has a number of adverse side effects such as lowered levels of high density lipoprotein that is beneficial for the heart and lowers the harm accruing from low density lipoproteins. But it stimulates prostate tumors and creates clotting and liver complications. Anabolic steroids can also make users more aggressive, while cosmetic changes can occur in terms of acne, enhanced hair growth on body and baldness. Because anabolic steroids are synthetic substances that are also present in male hormones, more and more attempts are being made to produce testosterone in ways that are legally acceptable. The present status of steroids is that they need to be prescribed medically but because of activities such as smuggling and illegal distribution and synthesis in laboratories, they are mostly available quite easily and hence abused.

Testosterone can also be obtained by using pro-hormones that are converted by the body into testosterone. The first such substance was 4-androstenedione that was developed by German scientists for German athletes participating in the Olympics. But the use of anabolic steroids has become a hot topic in being actively discussed by the media and government at different levels. The media believes that steroids are an increasing problem and that its abuse is becoming quite common amongst school children also. The Journal of the American Medical Association researched in 1998 about the patterns of steroid use amongst male adolescents and it was found that 68.8 percent schools reported the use of steroids amongst their students. On an individual basis it was found that amongst the 12th grade students, almost half of them were exposed to the use of anabolic drugs. The outcome of the research was that 6.7 percent of 12th grade males in schools were using anabolic steroids. About 68 percent of the users were found to be sixteen or lesser years of age (Powers, 2005).

As per a 2005 survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of anabolic steroids amongst students had increased by more than 100 percent from 1992 to 2004. About 6 percent of the 15, 000 students that were examined consented to having tried steroids. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has held that the situation is now better and only about 4 percent of high school students tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2008. Comprehensive drug testing policies have not been actively forced upon players of baseball. The most famous stories of baseball players using steroids are of Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. The two players were suspected of using anabolic drugs during the time when the BALCO scandal was uncovered. Bonds held that he was motivated to use steroids by his trainer, who told him it was a nutrition supplement comprising of a pain relieving ointment and flax seed oil that would give him relief from the arthritis he was suffering from. Greg told the jury that he made use of a pair of untraceable steroids known as the clear and the cream, both being provided by his trainer during the tournaments held in 2003. Steroid policies became effective in football in 1987 but to have a clear picture of steroids in this sport it is first required to understand the pattern of high school practices in this regard. It appears that educational efforts in this regard have not proved to be very effective.  It is surprising that in a 2009 survey almost ten percent NFL players had consented to using banned anabolic steroids during football games. Sixteen percent of the forward players consented to the use of steroids. A player such as Shawne Merriman, who was the most powerful player in the 2005 NFL Rookie had tested positive for using steroids and was thus banned for four years (Kochakian, 2009).

Barry Bonds is believed to be one of the most powerful baseball players that played in major league baseball. He recorded the highest ever career home runs and was voted as a member of the 14 All Star games. He won the MVP award seven times and won the Gold Glove Awards eight times. He was convicted of supplying anabolic steroids to athletes although he declared himself innocent. He suffered a great deal subsequently in being indicted for perjury and obstructing justice charges. He is now free but no team is willing to engage him in view of his past record of using anabolic steroids (Council on Scientific Affairs, 1988).

Another example of steroid users is Jose Canseco who was renowned for intense power and hold in the game. He was able to get 462 home runs during the sixteen years that he played. Jose was modest enough to accede that his achievements were not because of his field performance but because he took steroids. He was the first sportsman to come out in this regard and speak the truth about the power behind his extraordinary performance. He chronicled his use of steroids in his book titled Juiced Wild Times that included the complete story about the problems he faced and what made him to get into the habit. He opened up about the problems associated with major league baseball and over the years his allegations and assertions have largely proved to be correct in terms of describing the use of steroids amongst specific players.

However, steroids are mostly used in individual performances such as weight lifting, cycling and athletics. Football has not been largely associated with steroid use or other performance enhancing drugs. The game is known to suffer more from the relationship it has with recreational drugs. A typical example in this regard is of Diego Maradona who was excessively hooked on to cocaine that ultimately forced him to retire from active playing. However, there has been considerable hype about football as a game because action is not taken against players that are involved in scandals relating to the ingestion of steroids (Pat, 2004).

Anabolic steroids are used mainly because of their ability to retain protein and to promote growth of tissues, but mostly they are abused. The benefits include the enhancement of both stamina and strength, along with the recognition and wealth that are brought with better performances. However, the risks are more and can vary from psychological transformation to infertility to cancer. Additionally, there is added risk of losing confidence in terms of the concept of fairness that goes with successful competition in sports. Such risks obviously imply that the use of steroids should not be legalized in sports and rightly, many countries and international sports organizations have banned their use. At the same time, there are determined steroid suppliers that have somehow managed to ensure that steroids are always available. They continue to remain ahead in the race despite strict testing programs and restrictions on the distribution of anabolic steroids. Such circumstances have led to a debate whether it is alright to ban steroids. But all exposures relating to the use of steroids have not led to protests by the media and sports associations. For example, the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is presently governor of California, aptly demonstrates that the practice is not considered to be very undesirable. The use of steroids has been widely documented in wrestling, which is evident from the popularity it gets from the ratings on television programs.

The legal position relating to the use of steroids varies in different nations. Some countries have provided for strict controls and prescriptions on steroids while in some countries they are legally permitted. Anabolic steroids in the US are presently categorized as falling under Schedule III under provisions of the Controlled Substances Act. The law provides for possession of anabolic steroids to be a punishable offense, which can be up to a year’s imprisonment. Illegal possession or distribution of steroids with the intention to sell or distribute is punishable up to ten years in prison. Canada too has strict laws in this regard and anabolic steroids and related substances comprise of controlled drugs that fall under the Fourth Schedule, implying that it is not legal to distribute or sell such substances unless proper prescription is accompanied with the request to purchase the same. But in Canada, the possession of steroids is not a punishable offense under provisions of the first, second and third schedules. Those found guilty of the offense of selling and buying anabolic steroids in Canada can be imprisoned for eighteen months. Countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Australia and Portugal also have strict laws to prevent the use of anabolic steroids. The United Kingdom has a policy whereby anabolic drugs are categorized as falling under Schedule C of the Controlled Drugs. Conversely, such substances are not illegal to possess, distribute and use in some nations such as Thailand and Mexico.


In view of the circumstances relating to the use of steroids and their adverse consequences on sports persons and society at large, it is felt that the use of steroids in sports should not be legalized. They should be used only in the context of treatment when prescribed by medical professionals. Using steroids enables a person to become big and strong quickly but they eventually kill. The basic reason for the use of steroids in sports is to feel good about one’s achievements and to gain financially. Using steroids is nothing less than cheating because they create an imbalance amongst opponents in sports whereby one participant gets an edge over others in terms of getting unjustified advantage. Using steroids is bad in every respect because it is unethical as well as harmful for the body in addition to creating unfair competition. Eventually, the use of steroids leaves the player or sports person with a sense of guilt as had happened with Barry Bonds and Jose Conseco. They were total wrecks in later life and could not have a sense of achievement because of their habits that they advertently got involved in. It is thus correct to say that if steroids are allowed and legalized, the very spirit of sports will be destroyed. They can be used beneficially only for medical purposes and for no other purpose.

Works Cited

American College of Sport Medicine. Position stand on the use of anabolic – androgenic steroids

in sports. Medical Science Sports Exerc, 2002.

Council on Scientific Affairs. Drug abuse in athletes, Anabolic steroids and growth hormone.

JAMA, 1988.

Daniels, R. C. The Anabolic Steroid Handbook. Richard C Daniels, 2003.

Kochakian, D. Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise. Human Kinetics, 2009.

Pat L. Anabolic Steroids: And Other Performance-enhancing Drugs, CRC Press, 2004.

Powers, M. Performance-Enhancing Drugs, SLACK Incorporated, 2005.

Yesalis, C. E. Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise. Human Kinetics Publishers, 2000.

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