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Performance Enhancing Drugs Should Be Allowed In Professional Sports

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Performance Enhancing Drugs Should be Allowed In Professional Sports

The most talked about sports story of the 21st century is the use of performance enhancing drugs by professional athletes. Over the past four years, it has been nearly impossible to turn on the television without hearing something about athletes and these drugs. From former National League MVP Third Baseman Ken Caminiti’s admission of steroid use in an issue of Sports Illustrated to 2006 Tour de France Champion Floyd Landis’ failed doping test virtually every sport is involved. Are performance enhancing drugs a substance that threatens the very existence of professional sports, or are they the future? Perhaps the issue with steroids is nothing more than a classic example of man being afraid of science. Are performance enhancing drugs an unfair advantage, or simply improved performance through better technology? When logically thought through, it becomes more and more clear that the latter may in fact be the case, and that we should change our policies and allow regulated use of performance enhancing drugs in sports leagues. The reason that sports leagues should reconsider their position on drugs is that large numbers of athletes continue to use them despite their illegality, statistical evidence proves that the drugs are effective, and under the supervision of a physician performance enhancing drugs can be used safely.

Former American League Baseball MVP, Jose Canseco who became so knowledgeable about steroids that other baseball players referred to him as �The Chemist,’ said the following about steroid use.

“We’re talking about the future here. I have no doubt whatsoever that intelligent, informed use of steroids, combined with human growth hormone, will one day be so accepted that everybody will be doing it. Steroid use will be more common than Botox is now. Every baseball player and pro athlete will be using at least low levels of steroids. As a result, baseball and other sports will be more exciting and entertaining. Human life will be improved, too. We will live longer and better.”

When it comes to performance enhancing drugs, you are not only talking about the future, but the past as well. Most media reports would lead you to believe that they have only become so popular within the last 20 years. The truth of the matter is that there are recorded cases of doping “as early as the 8th century BC, when the Ancient Greek Olympians ate sheep’s testicles; today we would recognize these as a source of testosterone.” Over 2500 years later, Hall of Fame pitcher James “Pud” Galvin who won 361 games from 1879 to 1892, admitted in an 1889 Washington Post report that he had taken testosterone that had been extracted from animal testicles. Some researchers even suggest that baseball’s original homerun king Babe Ruth, may have experimented with a similar elixir.

These primitive attempts at boosting testosterone were the precursor to today’s anabolic steroids which are a synthetic form of testosterone. Although anabolic steroids may be the best known performance enhancer, other types of drugs have been in use for many decades. In his bestselling 1970 book Ball Four, former major league pitcher Jim Bouton admitted that he and many other major leaguers were taking amphetamine pills known as вЂ?greenies,’ which increase energy and endurance. In a 2005 interview with ESPN.com, Bouton reiterated these sentiments, “In the 1970s, half of the guys in the big leagues were taking greenies, and if we had steroids, we would have taken those, too.”

Unlike anabolic steroids and “greenies” not all performance enhancers are illegal. Popular supplements such as Androstenedione (Andro) and Dehydroepiandroterone (DHEA) are sold of the counter at health food stores and can increase circulation and levels of testosterone. Perhaps the most popular supplement used by athletes is Creatine which prolongs anaerobic metabolism. Why are these supplements acceptable to be sold and used not only legally, but without a doctor’s prescription, while others remain illegal, even under the supervision of a licensed medical professional?

Newer and more advanced drugs and techniques are being discovered constantly. One of the biggest drugs in the news is human growth hormone (HGH) which affects the metabolism. It is produced naturally in the body and synthesized by the pituitary gland. Caminiti and Canseco are among the high profile athletes who have admitted to the use of HGH. Also common is the use of insulin which increases lean body mass and can be easily obtained without a prescription at most pharmacies if you simply state that you are diabetic.

Designer steroids such as (THG) which was produced by the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) are made to be undetectable for standard test so that athletes can continue using performance enhancers in sports that outlaw and test for them. There is also currently no reliable test of HGH. If even the strictest of drug testing policies can be so easily circumvented then why bother testing at all. Wouldn’t regulated use create a more level playing field?

The future of doping lies in complicated medical procedures such as blood doping which increases the oxygen-carrying carrying capacity of blood and gene doping which actually changes an athlete’s body at the cellular level. Gene doping is currently rare due to its expense and complexity however, as with all new technology it will become inevitably cheaper and more accessible. “Experts also say that the process may be virtually undetectable by blood and urine testing” Wouldn’t we better off embracing these amazing medical procedures and seeing what possible benefits there could be outside of athletics, then we would by condemning them? Is it even reasonable to think that we could test athletes for changes in their actual DNA?

In the days when steroids were only being used by body builders and professional wrestlers, stories about performance enhancing drugs could only be found on the back pages of the newspapers. When former Oakland Raiders All-Pro Lyle Alzado admitted to steroid use in a 1991 Sports Illustrated article the whispers about what professional athletes were using steroids began to get louder. Finally, in 2002, when Caminiti, a former MVP, came clean, two things were clear; athletes in all sports were using these drugs, and that they worked. The fact that steroid use had permeated our national pastime combined with the media explosion of the internet and 24 hour a day sports talk created a perfect storm which

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