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Performance-Enhancing Drugs

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Doping in sports is not a new phenomenon. Drug abuse by athletes has occurred since the 1950s, and among the earliest drugs used were steroids, amphetamines, and strychnine with brandy. Public awareness of the problem was first raised during the 1967 Tour de France, when Tommy Simpson died. His death was attributed to amphetamine abuse. Recently, a drug called tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), which contains a synthetic anabolic steroid, comes from a company based here called Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative. The drug was given to baseball players, New York Yankee Jason Giambi and our very own GIANT Barry Bonds. The drug was also administered to football player Bill Romanowski, boxer Shane Mosley, and American track stars, including multiple Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones and the world's fastest man, Tim Montgomery.

Athletes use performance-enhancing drugs to improve performance, to play when injured, or simply to achieve a "winning edge." Athletes may also use performance-enhancing drugs for several reasons, including building mass and strength of muscles and/or bones or increasing delivery of oxygen to exercising tissues. They may also dope to mask pain, stimulate the body, for relaxation, reduce weight or even to hide the use of other drugs.

Currently, there are five classes of substances banned from the International Olympic Committee. These substances include: stimulants (i.e. amphetamines), anabolic agents (i.e. steroids), diuretics, narcotics, and peptide hormones (i.e. growth hormone and erythropoietin). Stimulants are used to avoid stave off the feeling of fatigue, as well as to increase aggressiveness. Athletes also use stimulants to mask off pain. Anabolic agents stimulate bone growth and help to increase protein synthesis.

Diuretics are used to reduce one's weight quickly in sports where weight is an issue, such as wrestling and weight lifting. They also dilate the urine, which diminishes the detection of any illegal drug use.

To counter the doping problem, some say that the band on these substances should be lifted since it is impossible to detect all cheats. They would prefer to have a free-for-all and allow unrestricted abuse. But is it ethical to allow all athletes to use any drug of their choice for sports, even if it will have a negative effect on their bodies later on? Do doctors or physicians have the right to prescribe certain substances to athletes? Is it fair that athletes who use drugs have a competitive advantage? Should drug testing be mandatory?


A number of studies from the 1980s examined the influence of oral and injected anabolic steroids on serum HDL-C levels. There is a close relationship between low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and atherosclerotic coronary artery disease. When the levels of HDL-C diminish, the number of diseased coronary arteries in women and men increases. In one study, nine strength-trained men were tested for their serum HDL-C levels. It was found that their mean HDL-C concentration was 17.0 ± 2.3 mg. This value is significantly lower than the means for untrained and trained men who were not using anabolic steroids. The HDL-C mean values for the untrained and trained were 46 1.6 ± mg/100 ml and 44.6 ± 1.3mg/100 ml, respectively (Costill, Person and Fink 113).

In another study, five elite athletes who used anabolic-androgenic steroids were analyzed. The results of this study also showed that athletes had significantly lower levels of HDL-C while taking the steroids. However, when they abstained from using the steroids, their HDL-C levels were higher. In addition, the athletes tested had significantly lower HDL-C levels than the control group (Peterson and Fahey 120). The correlation between anabolic-androgenic steroid using athletes and low levels of HDL-C implies that the use of anabolic-androgenic steroids may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (Strauss, Wright, Finerman and Catlin 93).


Most athletes know that training is the best path to victory. Some of these athletes get the message that some drugs and other practices can boost their efforts and give them a shortcut. However, doing so can put their athletic careers, let alone their health, at risk.

One study kept a record of the patterns of use of anabolic steroids in 27 body builders and five power lifters. Out of the 32 subjects, 67% of them reported temporary changed in libido and another 56% reported a temporary increase in irritability of aggressive behavior. In addition, the experimenters found that the subjects also experienced reductions in circulating levels of testosterone, testicular atrophy and oligospermia. This happens because there is a decreased production of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, which in turn is caused by the administration of anabolic-androgenic hormones. Anabolic steroids may also accelerate the closing of the epiphyses, which may decrease the ultimate height of persons who are still growing. (Strauss, Wright, Finerman and Catlin 87).

Females who use performance-enhancing drugs may experience any of the following:

irregularity or cessation of the menstrual cycle, shrinkage of the

breasts...and virilizing effects, many of which are irreversible,

including deepening of the voice, acne, clitoral enlargement,

hirsutism, and male patterns of baldness (Di Pasquale 50 - 53).

In addition to the effects that Di Pasquale found, a study conducted by Brower, Catlin, Blow, Eliopulos, George, Thomas (165) also found that females may develop edema, acne and alopecia. Cox (571) discovered that females may also experience increases in facial and body hair. These effects can be irreversible.

In 1991, only about one perfect of female high school students have used performance-enhancing drugs. However, an estimated five to twelve percent of male high school students have used steroids (Manisses 5). Di Pasquale (50-53) also found that males may experience "balding, hypertension, testicular atrophy, fluctuating sex drive, and gynecomastia". Brower, Catlin, Blow, Eliopulos, George, Thomas (164) found similar effects. But their study also suggests that males may develop cardiac hypertrophy, an atherogenic cholesterol profile, and sterility.

Duda (175) discovered that one out of every four steroid users develops hypertension, especially if that individual has a family history of heart disease. In addition, about one to two percent of all steroid users end up with myocardial damage. A person may also experience



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