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Performance-Enhancing Drugs In Sports

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Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports

Jennifer Edwards

In all areas of sports, professional, college, and even high school, there is widespread illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs. Although there are many reasons for athletes to choose to use these drugs, the cost of such use, both to the athlete and to society can be extraordinarily high. In order of performance-enhancing drugs we must understand why they are used and the consequences of their use to the athlete and society.

One of the reason athletes choose to use performance-enhancing drugs is to bulk up. Athletes have guidelines pertaining to size that must be met. If one wants to be a defensive lineman in the National Football League (NFL), one cannot weigh 175 pounds; so some athletes will use performance-enhancing drugs to make themselves gain weight.

Another reason athletes will choose to use illegal drugs is to get more oxygen to their muscles. When blood and muscles are full of oxygen, one's body can perform better. An athlete who has used a performance-enhancing drug to get more oxygen to his or her muscles can perform for longer periods of time.

A third reason an athlete would choose to use an illegal drug is to stimulate the body. The reasons an athlete would need to keep his or her body stimulated are to reduce tiredness, to stay alert, and maintain aggressiveness. It is the same as when a person drinks coffee in the morning to perk him or herself up.

One final reason an athlete would use performance-enhancing drugs is to mask an injury. For example, if a quarterback breaks his toe during the South Eastern Conference Championship game, there are two options: one, the quarterback can be taken out of the game or two, the trainer can give the quarterback an injection to take the pain away, allowing the quarterback to return to the game. In this instance the quarterback most likely would choose the injection due to the magnitude of the game and he would most likely feel an unconscious pressure from the fans, his teammates, and the coaches to do so.

Often the decision to use is made without considering the risk. Athletes who make the decision to use performance-enhancing drugs do not focus on the side effects. They do not realize that gaining weight quickly and unnaturally is not healthy. They are risking having mood swings, aggressive behavior, or even life threatening depression.

The athlete who chooses to use a drug that puts more oxygen in his or her blood and muscles risks having a heart attack. The drugs that increase oxygen in the body also increase how many red blood cells are made. With so many red blood cells, the blood becomes thick and is harder for the heart to pump.

The performance-enhancing drugs that help stimulate the body are not as bad as some of the other drugs, but they too have their own side effects. The side effects are similar to caffeine: one can become nervous, have an irregular heartbeat, and have high blood pressure, and in extreme cases there can even be sudden death. Athlete's who has an undiagnosed medical condition like high blood pressure or irregular heartbeats can make matters much worse for themselves by taking these drugs.

The athlete who chooses to use a drug to mask an injury is asking for that injury to become worse. Most of the drugs used for this are narcotics and very strong painkillers. If we use the same example about the quarterback who broke his toe, once he is on the drug to mask that pain he could very well break another toe and not even know it. Also, most narcotics and strong painkillers are addictive, so the player now has to worry about that.

Now we have gone over the risks of using performance-enhancing drugs for the athletes, but what about the cost society has to pay? So many people, especially kids, look up to pro-athletes like they are gods and they want to be just like them. It is not right for a grown professional athlete to cheat to win. That sends the wrong message to the kids. Young people who want to be professional athletes need to know it is not easy; you can't just pop a pill or shoot something in your vein to be a great athlete. You have to put in long hard hours practicing to be the best.

Another thing to think about is the fans. Season ticket holders for the NFL can pay thousands of dollars a year buying regular season tickets and play-off tickets. Is it fair to the fan who pays all that money and it all goes down the drain because the star athlete of their team has tested positive for drugs and has been suspended? Of course it's not fair. Athletes who choose to use performance-enhancing drugs are not only letting themselves down but also the rest of the team, and most importantly, the fans.

Now I want to talk about what we can do to get athletes to decide not to use performance-enhancing drugs. Right now there are rules in effect for players testing positive for any kind of illegal drug, but obliviously those rules are not working since players feel they have to use some kind of drug to have an edge. For almost all players the sport they play is their livelihood. It would not be right to just kick them out of the sport permanently, but at the same time the consequence for testing positive must be great.

As it stands right now when players test positive for performance-enhancing drugs, they get fined; but really what is a $10,000 fine when the player is on a multi-million dollar contract? I believe if the punishment actually fit the crime fewer athletes would choose to use the drugs. For example instead of giving them a small fine or suspending them for a game or two, how about suspending the player who tested positive for the remainder of the season. If the consequences for using drugs outweigh the benefits, most players will choose



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