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Performance Enhancing Drugs and Athletes

Nicholas Bonat

Liberty High School


Ben Johnson, a 100 meter sprinter for Canada, raced his way to a gold medal during the
1988 Olympic Games. Nearly three days later, he was suspended from the sport of Track and
Field and his gold medal was taken away. This was due to the fact that he failed a drug test.
Officials determined that Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid commonly used in horse races, was
found in his blood. These types of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) further athletes
physical ability to hit farther, run faster, lift extra weight, jump relatively higher and have more
stamina. The use of preforming enhancing drugs is illegal in sports competition and has been
since 1976, according to Sam Jenkins (2007). With professional athletes doping (the action of
taking PEDs), there are consequences that range from breaking records and earning awards to
physical complications and ruined reputations. For athletes who use PEDs, the line between risk
and reward is blurred.
Performance enhancing drugs consist of a variety of substances, including medications,
procedures and even devices that are intended to improve athletic sports performance, according
to Jeff Quinn (2014). Some of these substances are naturally occurring, easily available and
completely legal while others are manufactured, illegal, or banned by many sporting
organizations. Among these illegal substances, the most commonly used enhancing drugs are
called anabolic steroids, as stated by Hansen Harms (2013). This is a drug that can change the
way a persons body reacts towards their activity. They can be taken in pills or injection.
Working with the amount of testosterone in the body, anabolic steroids affect processes
associated with protein synthesis in muscle. Which means the body gains muscle faster and
recovers quicker. There are many different kinds of anabolic steroids that include:
Fluxoymesterone, Methyltestosterone, Nandrolone, Oxandrolone, Oxymetholone, and


Stanozolol. Each specific steroid varies in side effects, but all complete the common goal of
increasing testosterone in the blood stream.
Drugs have changed the way precautions are handled in the professional athletics world.
Testing and determining if an athlete is on PEDs has become a common practice that isnt taken
lightly. Athletes are tested by giving a urine or blood sample. They must first go through this
progress in order for them to proceed at their competition, says Kyle Rohrer (2013). The test may
also happen after a competition was held. A drug test is an analysis of specifics through hair,
blood, urine, sweat, or saliva. Its main purpose is to determine whether or not a person is on
drugs. Any athlete can be determined if they are using drugs. Another way to discover that
athletes are taking drugs is to look at how they are performing. Officials sense when athletes are
enhancing drugs (Bamberger & Yaeger, 1997, p.60). You can compare an athletes performance
to another to see where they stand. If its a complete blow out, then you can easily tell that they
are taking enhancing drugs. If each persons performance is a satisfaction, than they might not be
on drugs. This tactic is used to get an idea if the athlete is doping, still, testing regularly is so
even the innocent dont get by unnoticed.
Being a baseball all-star is an icon envied by many. Alex Rodriguez, a professional
baseball player, played at a high level that was thought to be possible by his own gifted physical
ability. However, in 2009 he admitted to doping throughout his career. Rodriguez went on to
admit to doping since 2001, but for only two years. Receiving harsh judgment from big
newspaper companies, such as The New York Times, it was clear the public wasnt fond of
Rodriguezs decision to take PEDs. Some even questioned if his accomplishments should be
considered legitimate, since former record holders were free of doping. Others questioned if he
had taken PEDs since before 2001 and for longer than two years. The punishment he inevitably


received was a 162 game suspension. After the suspension during an interview for ESPN, the
baseball player stated: A $252 million contract to play baseball causes an enormous amount of
pressure to perform at a high level every day" (2014). With this huge amount of pressure, it
almost seems okay to want to be able to perform at the best of your ability, even if it means
taking PEDs. Entering the MLB in 1993, just fourteen years later he became the youngest player
ever to hit 500 career home runs. He again broke the record at 600 home runs in 2010. Two years
later, in June 2012, he led the Yankees to a win over the Atlanta Braves, hitting his 23rd grand
slam and matching the record of Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig.
PEDs are used by a variety of athletes that vary in gender as well. One specific case is
track runner Marion Jones. In an article written by Gary Gaffney (2010), Jones was recognized
as a world-class athlete at age 17 and received praise for her talent. In the 1992 Olympic trials,
she respectively declined being an alternate. Instead she competed in the IAAF World Junior
Championships in Seoul, but didnt place. She continued to compete in high school and then
college competitions, earning various other titles. In 1997 she went to the World Championships
in Athens and was able to score gold in the 100 m sprint. In 1998 at the IAAF World Cup she
won gold in the 100 m and 200 m and silver in the long jump event. Although being accused of
doping at this time, she denied use and in 1999 continued success at the IAAF World
Championships in Spain, earning a gold and silver medal. Though she was highly successful at
the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, the discovery of her use with PEDs destroyed her career.
While she was able to get out of doping before, this time she was unsuccessful. Her husband, CJ
Hunter, a shot putter, admitted to using steroids and confessed that Jones had injected steroids
during the 2000 Olympics. Jones continued to deny the accusations, but after failing a drug test,


she was forced to give up all of her earned titles from the 2000 Olympics and on. In total, she
lost 6 medals and never returned to the competition.
Long use of anabolic steroids can be accompanied by a multitude of serious and
minor internal and external side effects (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2013). Using steroids
for an extended amount of time can prove fatal to a persons general state of health. External
changes, those visible on the human body, include: acne and baldness. Internal changes include
feminization, cardiovascular risks, changes in mood, headaches, kidney problems, liver
problems, immune system deficiencies, high blood pressure, stomachaches and water/salt
retention problems.
External side effects are relatively mild compared to the internal side effects. The skin is
the most sensitive area for side effects. The most apparent side effects are the pores in the skin
becoming larger making the skin rough (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2013). This process,
called virilization, is irreversible once it has started. Another major problem of steroid use is
development of severe acne all over the body. Acne that already is apparent may become worse
and if there is no acne already, it can be evoked. This side effect will differ from person to
person, as all side effects do, depending on the persons composition and the type and amount of
steroid used. Various acne medications may be used in helping control acne outbreaks. Stretch
marks are also prominent, not directly from the use of steroids, but from the rapid growth of the
muscles. Using aloes, lotions and moisturizing gels can help offset this side effect. Baldness is
another problem for some steroid users. Steroids do not cause baldness, however, they can speed
the process up for those who are going to lose it anyway. Hair loss, in the vast majority of cases,


is an irreversible process. The external side effects of steroid use are relatively mild, although
some are irreversible such as virilization and balding.
The internal side effects of prolonged steroid use are much more substantial and drastic
than the external side effects (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2013). With the use of high
dosages of anabolic steroids, over a long-term cycle, users can develop extremely aggressive
behavior, commonly known as roid rage. Some athletes consider this an advantage because of
their increased ability to train harder and more intensely, however it has been proven to do more
harm than good. Most of the time, this rage results in loss of friendships, destructiveness and
inability to control ones behavior. The best way to prevent this potentially destructive behavior
is to limit the amount and duration of anabolic compounds in a persons system. Another
negative mental affect is the feeling of depression. Often times when athletes have been using
steroids and have experienced huge gains, they expect to keep the gains after they come off their
cycle. When their performance falls to that of their natural ability without steroids, the person
may become depressed. High estrogen levels can enhance this feeling in the athletes system as
well. The mental side effects of steroid use can cause severe harm to a persons health.
The use of performance enhancing drugs has become increasingly dangerous among
athletes. Although they have been tightly regulated, there are still athletes who try and
supplement themselves and their athletic abilities with PEDs. To combat this, precautionary
measures such as urine and blood samples are obtained to ensure that there are no drugs in an
athletes body prior to competition. Not to mention, there are various internal and external health
problems that can result from the use of these dangerous drugs. Ultimately, professional athletes
are expected to avoid PEDs in an effort to break records, earn awards, and be a role model for


those who idolize them. It is important that these athletes realize the fine line between risk and
reward, and take the high road by avoiding drug use to improve their physical capabilities.


ESPN Services, E. (2014, January 1). USADA: A-Rod regimen 'potent' Retrieved November 26,
2014, from

Gary Gaffney (September 11, 2010). Timeline - Drug Use in Sports Retrieved December 18, 2014, from

Harms, R. (2013, August 22). Tween and teen health. Retrieved December 17, 2014, from

Jenkins, S. (n.d.). Historical Timeline - Drug Use in Sports - Retrieved December
16, 2014, from

National Institute on Drug Abuse (December 2013). - Retrieved March 18, 2014,

Quinn, E. (n.d.). Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in Sports. Retrieved December 16, 2014,

Rohrer, D. (2013, January 1). Effects of Performance Enhancing Drugs | U.S. Anti-Doping
Agency USADA. Retrieved December 17, 2014, from