Steroids and Dietary Supplements: Are They Worth The Risk?

Sports & RecreationsSports

  • Author Julia Garcia
  • Published May 21, 2019
  • Word count 993

The use and abuse of performance enhancing drugs has become a very controversial topic in modern society. The media and public typically view these substances in a negative light due to reasons such as: steroid use leads to a number of major health risks; athletes in use of steroids would be seeking an "unfair" advantage; athletes being encouraged to take steroids could be viewed as an act of coercion; and the use of such substances clash with the concept of good sportsmanship and how society generally view professional athletes as role models.

As an alternative for steroids, some athletes seek out dietary supplements for weight loss or muscle building. Many dietary supplements are legalized and are safe to be ingested by athletes and young adults. In fact, from my home town it’s not uncommon to hear of high school coaches encouraging their players to take muscle building supplements because products are legalized and easily accessible. However, supplements primarily sold for weight loss and muscle building "are known to often be adulterated with illegal substances, like steroids and prescription pharmaceuticals, and to include toxic concentrations of legal substances" (Yergaliyev,1). Yergaliyev’s case study also displayed the evidence that most adults were oblivious to the fact these dietary supplements contained illegal substances. They were also unaware of the risks and negative side effects associated with some of the ingredients within the legalized supplements.

The misuse of anabolic steroids can also lead to a number of negative side effects. Anabolic steroids are synthetic, or human-made, variations of the male sex hormone testosterone commonly used by doping athletes. These substances have been scientifically proven to lead to multiple mental effects such as extreme irritability and aggression, becoming delusional, having impaired judgment, and mania. A few long-term effects also include kidney problems or failure, liver damage and tumors, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of blood clots within the body. Other steroids directly affect the cardiovascular system: cardiac hypertrophy can occur, blood pressure can vastly increase, and thrombotic complications can arise as well. Negative side effects can vary, depending on the substance and dose ingested by each individual athlete. However, athletes would not resort to doping if they felt there weren’t any positive results in the long run.

Some athletes seek benefits such as recovering from an injury, increasing body recovery capacity after training, increasing muscle mass and strength, decreasing fat tissue, and increasing endurance. Others feel pressured to be the absolute best at their position and the best in their sport, while at the same time staying one step ahead of the competition to maintain that status. This very mindset leads to the desire to possess superhuman capabilities that comes with the use of steroids.

The article "Doping in Sports, a Never-Ending Story?" addresses that today’s sports are no longer "just sports". The sports world has become an industry, a business filled with politics, sponsors, contracts, and money. Along with the glory and publicity that come with winning, the rest of these factors put together have become reason enough for some athletes to put their life long career, health, and reputation on the line.

The fight to prevent doping continues, but the existence of rules and Codes, as well as Anti-Doping Procedures and Biological Passports has made the process of doping more and more difficult to achieve. The reality of the problem is that the majority of illegal substances can be detected throughout thorough testing, but "anti-doping agencies will always be one step behind manufacturers of new undetectable substances with pharmacological properties similar to those already available on the market" (Vlad,4). Vorona’s case study supports Vlad’s due to the fact she was able to document anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) being the highest substance continuously abused in competitive athletics, bodybuilding and in recreational sports.

There is a lot of controversy around the fact that most professional athletes caught doping only face minor consequences even though getting caught results in a felony nationwide. In a Google Survey, 92% of the participants believe athletes in use of steroids are cheating and another 72% also felt professional athletes are let off the hook too easily when caught.

In addition to Yergaliyev’s case study, my Google Survey showcased that 48% participants have never been educated about steroids throughout their years as athletes and 52% of them were oblivious to legal dietary supplements contained forbidden substances.

This is proof enough that something needs to change within the sports world and fast. I don’t think companies should jeopardize a consumer’s health just to continue to make a quick buck, I do believe all human beings should be held accountable for their actions regardless of status, and I don’t think young athletes, or their parents should be okay with their high coaches encouraging them to take dietary supplements when they themselves aren’t aware of the hazards these illegal ingredients possess. There are new innovative measures that should be taken at the municipal level in order to address the problems resulting from weak regulations and easy access to potentially dangerous weight-loss and muscle-building supplements. All stakeholders should be formally educated on steroids and dietary supplements at some point in their life to help spread awareness on the subject. Athletes should be held accountable for their actions and serve their punishment for crimes just like any other citizen. If there must be stricter regulations, testing, and harsher consequences implemented to prevent future doping scenarios and protect the overall wellbeing of all athletes then so be it.

Works Cited:

Vlad, Robert Alexandru et al. "Doping in Sports, a Never-Ending Story?" Advanced

pharmaceutical bulletin vol. 8,4 (2018): 529-534.

Vorona. "Division of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Nutritional Medicine, Department of

Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Clinics of Münster, Münster, Germany."

Minerva Endocrinologica,

Yergaliyev, Kuanysh, et al. "174. Community Stakeholders’ Perception And Attitudes About

Dietary Supplements Use Among Adolescents: Lessons For Local Policy Initiatives."

Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 64, no. 2, 2019, doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.10.190.

I'm a freshman at the University of Texas of Austin, who created this article as part of a research project.

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