I have a college degree in social sciences but several years ago I got my CSCS certification and now am in the final semester of college before I achieve my Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science.
One of my classes is a Sports Psychology class and my professor had us watch this really lame propaganda video about the dangers of steroids and what drives people to do such terrible things to themselves. I thought this was EXTREMELY short sighted so I chose as a topic for my final assignment the psychology behind steroid use.
I understand that by challenging my professor’s viewpoints I risk hurting my grade which is why I feel I have to make my point VERY VERY strongly.
If anyone wants to read through my paper and thinks there is any good point that can be made that I left out then please feel free to share it with me. I will give you full credit and list you as a source.
Anyways, here it is, fairly long read.
I know the subject of drug legalization has occasionally been a topic of discussion here on the forums. It is a subject I have mixed opinions about since I feel some drugs should be legalized and some shouldn’t.
I bring this up because this is actually my final week of college before I graduate with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. For my Sports Psychology course I decided to make the case FOR the legalization of anabolic/androgenic steroids for the specific purpose of performance enhancement.
I have never used steroids but having worked in the fitness industry since 2008 I have been exposed to the drug many many times as it is very common place among gym goers, athletes, and co-workers.
If anyone wants to tell me whether or not they agree or disagree with what I wrote then please do so as I’m very nervous about this class. My professor is a complete fucking asshole and moralfag so I know he’s not going to agree with what I wrote, but what is important is that I just effective make my case.
Week 7 Assignment
Issue Analysis Paper
Anabolic Androgenic Steroid Use in Weightlifters
July 19, 2013
Anabolic androgenic steroid use has infiltrated all sports, but is perhaps most prevalent in weightlifting and related sports, such as body-building. The risks of these drugs have been overstated and the benefits directly impact the sports involved. The history and background of steroid use in these sports is reviewed and estimates on their impact today are examined. The pyschologic rationale for steroid use appears straightforward given their benefits to competition, but as they are illegal as well as possibly causing health issues, individual users must justify to themselves that the benefits outweigh the risks. There is data to suggest athletes who use these drugs consider them more in the same category as nutritional supplements rather than drugs.
On the other hand, steroid use has also been identified with use of other illicit substance abuse, suggesting that drug abusive behavior in these athletes is not so specific to just their sport. Finally, a possible solution to this problem is proposed. Legalization and open use of steroids under physician monitoring in a sport such as weightlifting may be a better strategy than the current system of sereptitious use.
Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) are a classification of performance enhancing drugs that are synthetic derivatives of the male hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. These are part of a wider classification of drugs known as performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). These drugs are a class III controlled substance in both the United States and Canada and are typically prescribed to treat low testosterone symptoms like hypogonadism in men.
In men who do not have low testosterone issues, use of these drugs will bring androgen levels to supraphysiological levels and promote athletic enhancing effects including increased nitrogen retention, hematopoiesis (increased red blood cell production), muscular hypertrophy, increased muscle lactate threshold, improved recovery times, hyperplasia (development of new muscle fibers), as well as some psychological benefits like increased determination and confidence during a work out (Thiblin, 2005). All of these factors are highly desirable for athletes and thus the temptation for athletes such as weightlifters to use AAS can be extremely high, especially considering how fiercely competitive the world of professional and semi-professional sports is.
Just like any other drug, AAS include side effects. These include worsening of blood lipid profiles (increased LDL, reduced HDL), hair loss, acne, increased liver enzymes, and suppression of the HPTA (hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis) which can lead to infertility and sexual problems. There are also reports of steroids causing increased aggression, dubbed â??roid-rageâ?? though such findings are not heavily supported by any scientific data and are controversial.
Such side effects are both dose and compound dependant, stronger steroids carry a greater risk of side effects (Thilbin, 2005). Many athletes will take steroids in a cycle in order to avoid some of these side effects. For instance, an athlete will use testosterone for 8-12 weeks, tape off and then use a drug to stimulate the HPTA like Nolvadex or Clomid to restore its function before going on another cycle. There are numerous websites that enumerate countless variations on steroid cycling.
Steroid use in weightlifting at the Olympics received significant attention during the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome when the anabolic steroid methandrostenolone trade named â??Dianabolâ?? was developed by Ciba pharmaceuticals and administered to American athletes in response to suspicion that Soviet Athletes were being administered testosterone for performance enhancement. This is notable because it is the only time in US history where a steroid was developed for the specific purpose of performance enhancement. Needless to say, it worked. The Soviets had long dominated the sport of weightlifting and still won the majority of divisions in 1960 but Bantam weight US weightlifter Charles Vinci managed to win the gold medal.
The Olympics throughout the 1960â??s until 1990 became a propaganda war between the Eastern block and Capitalist West and thus individual nations researched into different compounds to help their athletes perform. The olympic games became a cold drug war of sorts until the Controlled Substance Act of 1990 which made the possession of AAS without a doctorâ??s prescription a punishable offense. Demand for the drug has continued to increase however and to meet this demand a thriving black market of underground labs has emerged manufacturing these drugs for athletes as well as anyone who desires the performance enhancing benefits of AASâ??s (World Anti-Doping Association, 2010).
The extent of the risks of AAS has been a source of controversy. Cigarettes are a legal product for anyone over the age of 18 and they are directly responsible for the deaths of 440,000 Americans every year (CDC, 2004). AAS are a class III controlled substance which puts them in the same classification of drugs like amphetamines and opiates (US Department of Justice, 2007). Possession alone can lead to a jail sentence possibly as stiff as 20 years depending on the quantity possessed (AASA, n.d.).
Annually though how many steroid deaths are known? According to the CDC, the same source which reports on tobacco related deaths the number of deaths per year because of AAS is just 3. Forget tobacco, even NSAIDâ??s kill more people a year. Interestingly, as of March of this year, there were 48 deaths reported to the CDC from injections of medical (not illicit) steroids contaminated with fungus (CDC, 2013).
Public anti-drug campaigns in the 80â??s and 90â??s with cheesy, bumper sticker slogans like â??Just say NOâ??, â??Winners donâ??t use drugsâ?? or â??This is your brain on drugs, any questions?â?? helped create a culture of fear about the use of steroid use, especially after the high profile scandal involving Canadian Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson who was busted in the 1988 Olympics after testing positive for the drug Winstrol, which is an AAS compound (Montague, 2012). What did this scandal really show though? Does Ben Johson look like a hardcore junkie? The man is still alive today and looks more fit and healthier than ever. The only thing such a scandal proved is that these drugs do in fact work and that is the message which resonates so strongly with athletes who are tempted to use such compounds.
In a WADA (World Anti-Doping Administration, http://www.wada-ama.org/) regulated sport like weightlifting it is impossible to determine just how prevalent the use of AAS are since nobody will admit to them, at least not publically. In an anonymous Internet survey of weight-lifters and bodybuilders, there were 207 responders who reported using a mean of 3.1 agents, involving cycles ranging from 5 to 10 weeks (Perry, 2005). There problem with this kind of survey is that there is no denominator; one doesnâ??t know if non-responders are users or not users. It is relatively easy to hid steroid use, such as through the use of finasteride.
Finasteride is an alpha-5 reductase inhibitor which is actually prescribed for hair loss and benign-prostatic-hyperplasia and men, it can also have an effect of masking steroid use. It used to be a banned substance by WADA but since it has some legitimate medical uses it no longer is banned and is very easy to acquire a prescription for since it is not a controlled substance (WADA, 2010).
There are sports similar to weight-lifting that are not regulated by WADA like bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions. Notable bodybuilders like Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman are completely open about their steroid use. Bodybuilders from the golden era of bodybuilding like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno also used steroids and the fame from their bodybuilding led to careers in acting and, for Schwarzenegger, even politics so can one seriously argue someone like Schwarzenegger would have been better off had he never touched steroids?
The rationale of athletes who use steroids has been studied and the results are interesting. When classifying their steroid usage, athletes consider steroids more in the same category as nutritional substances than the illegal drugs that they technically are (Petroczi, Mazanov, et al., 2011, Petroczi, Uvacsek, et al., 2011).
On the other hand, numerous studies show that steroid use is linked with use of other illicit drugs, suggesting that there is an element of drug-seeking behavior in those who use steroids that extends beyond merely performance enhancement (Dodge, 2011, Dunn, 2009, Ip, 2012, Parkinson, 2006). This may be a result of the illegal nature of these drugs and the fact that obtaining these drugs illegally puts the user in contact with sources of other types of illicit drugs. Steroids are not â??recreational drugs.â?? Steroids are not drugs that someone takes to get a mental â??highâ?? or to get â??stoned.â??
These are drugs that enhnace physical performance and for athletes how well they perform physically is part of their career. There does not appear to a be any deep or dark hidden psychological motive for steroid use. Use of steroids by athletes is pragmatic and analogous to use of other drugs in modern life that are not closely regulated. Many people who have a cognitively demanding job will rely on caffeine to stay sharp, many people who have a job that involves public speaking like teaching will rely on beta-blockers to reduce anxiety, students will use amphetamines to improve their concentration at school, people who experience pain in jobs that require physical labor will often use NSAIDs, a drug that the CDC confirms kills more people than AAS (CDC, 2004) so why is it that using steroids to improve physical performance is singled out over any of these other drugs?
Arenâ??t people who use these drugs in fact using them for the same intended purpose, to improve their careers and livelihood? There are a lot of drugs that can improve an individualâ??s performance with his/her respective career so why does the government insist on discriminating against athletes? There is no way to eliminate the use of AAS in sports completely so if youâ??re a professional or semi-professional athlete chances are youâ??re going to be up against people who use steroids. Steroids literally give people superhuman strength, speed, and endurance so logic would dictate that if one wants to remain competitive then theyâ??re going to have to use steroids. This may not be true for every individual but not everyone is born with a genetic profile that favors athletic traits so steroids can seem like that missing link to oneâ??s dreams.
Finally, although in an ideal world the playing field would be level, with no one using steroids, since this is just not possible, it would probably be better to admit to their use and accept it openly. Legalizing these drugs would remove the stigma from the athletes who are â??caughtâ?? using steroids and who are then ostracized in certain sports despite the fact that many of their colleagues are also users and just havenâ??t been found out. Legalizing these drugs would also allow their use under a doctorâ??s supervision, with monitoring of liver function tests and for other unwanted side-effects, making their use much safer.
In summary, steroid use in weight-lifters is ubiquitous and probably not as hazardous to health as is popularly perceived. Open legal usage is probably a better solution to this so-called problem than the current status-quo.
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