T Nation

My Paper: Psychology Behind Steroid Use


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.


AASA. (n.d.). Legal ramifications of steroid abuse. Association Against Steroid Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.steroidabuse.com/legal-ramifications-of-steroid-abuse.html.
CDC. (2004) Smoking and tobacco use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/tables/health/attrdeaths/.
CDC. (2013). Notice to clinicians: continued vigilance urged for fungal infections among patients who received contaminated steroid injections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://emergency.cdc.gov/HAN/han00342.asp.
Dodge, T., & Hoagland, M. F. (2011). The use of anabolic androgenic steroids and polypharmacy: a review of the literature. Drug and Alcohol Dependency, 114, 100-109. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21232881.
Dunn, M., Mazanov, J. & Sitharthan, G. (2009). Predicting future anabolic-androgenic steroid use intentions with current substance use: findings from an internet-based survey. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 19(3), 222-227. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19423975.
Ip, E. J., Lu, D. H., Barnett, M. J., Tenerowicz, M. J., Vo, J. C., & Perry, P. J. (2012). Psychological and physical impact of anabolic-androgenic steroid dependence. Pharmacotherapy, 32(10), 910-919. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23033230.
Montague, J. (2012). Hero or villain? Ben Johnson and the dirtiest race in history. CNN. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/23/sport/olympics-2012-ben-johnson-seoul-1988-dirtiest-race.
Parkinson A. B., & Evans, N. A. (2006). Anabolic androgenic steroids: a survey of 500 users. Medical Science of Sports and Exercise, 38(4), 644-651. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21923602.
Perry, P. J, Lund, B. C., Deninger, M. J., & Schneider, J. (2011). Anabolic steroid use in weightlifters and bodybuilders: an internet survey of drug utilization. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 15(5), 326-330. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16162991.
Petroczi, A., Mazanov, J., & Naughton, D. P. (2011). Insides athletesâ?? minds: preliminary results from a pilot study on mental representation of doping and potential implications for anti-doping. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, May 20;6, 10. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21599981.
Petroczi, A., Uvacsek, M., Nepusz, T., Deshmukh, N., Shah, I., Aidman, E. V., Barker, J., Toth, M., & Naughton, D. P. (2011). Inconguence in doping related attitudes, beliefs and opinions in the context of discordant behavioural data: in which measure do we trust? PLoS One, 6(4), e18804. Retrived from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21541317.
Thiblin, I., & Petersson, A. (2005). Pharmacoepidemiiology of anabolic androgenic steroids: a review. Fundamentals of Clinical Pharmacology, 19(1), 27-44.
World Anti-Doping Association. (2010). A history of anti-doping. Retrieved from http://www.wada-ama.org/en/about-wada/history/.
U.S. Department of Justice. (2007). Title 21 United States Code Controlled Substances Act. Retrieved from http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr/21usc/844.htm.


Hopefully you wrote this for a low level undergrad class. This is poorly written.
What you wrote has very little to do with psychology. Overall, the paper lacks focus. You also don't support your opinions well. The facts you present seem to have very little to do with the conclusions you draw. I also hate rhetorical questions in a paper like this, but that's really the least of your problems here. You come off as having formed a personal bias before your research, and that you are simply trying to support a pre-existing opinion. That's not good. It's not how papers like this should be written.

I'll give you an example. Your Ben Johnson argument. Whether he 'looks like a hardcore junkie' or not is a) completely subjective, and b) has nothing to do with whether he IS a junkie. A healthy appearance is also not much of an indicator of whether or not he's actually healthy. If you had something like blood work to back up your argument (obviously you can't get this) you would have a case. But since you don't, you're essentially saying 'he looks good to me, and he's not dead, must be healthy!'

Your bodybuilder argument is flawed as well. You fail to address the multitude of Pro bb'ers who have had serious complications and who have died as a result of drug abuse. You're just presenting a few favorable cases. Saying Arnold is obviously better off for his drug use is very much debatable. The argument can easily be made that with such a fucked up personal life, he's lost proper perspective, and that his worldly gains might not mean that much.


Listen to this GENIUS ^


am I wrong? Do you think this is a good paper?


I agree with flip, paper needs more, more supporting evidence, more supporting science, If you are presenting this paper to someone who has a negative view on AAS, then it better be bullet proof. I wouldn't say its a "bad" paper. You most definitely are on a good track, you just need to go in deeper and provide more supporting information behind why steroids aren't as bad as the public propaganda out there is claiming them to be. Still was a good interesting read, should get anyone thinking. We don't want personal opinions here, we want facts, that can't be argued or denied.


I didn't even bother to read past the first paragraph. Poorly written, wordy, phrases like "individual users"...there is no need for the word individual. I see this in papers often. Rookie mistake of thinking more is better. Less is more my friend. Concise and straight forward...that's how a paper should read. The first sentence of each paragraph should drive the thesis, the following sentences should support the first.

Even if you had a solid argument with facts provided by verified sources to back it up, your professor would be too distracted by the sophmoric nature and tone of the paper.


I've written a few good papers, the bad ones were sort of like this, too wordy as mentioned, be concise and also try to get a librarian to find you actual books or scholarly journals. It looks better if you put in work at the library. I know your judged on the paper, so back to that, fix your main points to be logical and supported with evidence, as the Flip collar mentioned though, it looks bad if you start a scholarly paper that is meant to present the findings in a non biased way so use some evidence that goes again your points. Then whilst you do that you can always try to find evidence that goes against what the opposing views are. It is good to mention our do some digging and figure out who provided the study and why, everything has an agenda, the less you seem to have of 1 while writing this type of paper the better trust me I've lost alot of marks by writing opinion based papers in school. Start editing now!!!! Good luck!


this. you need to anticipate counterarguments. you have to address the obvious arguments against your own position, because your professor will certainly have them in his own mind. you have to explain why the evidence that seemingly goes against your own theory is invalid in some way. In this case, it would probably be useful to define what constitutes proper use of AAS, and what constitutes abuse. There would certainly be psychological implications in the definitions, so that would probably be useful in this context.


I don't know if this topic in the right vein for a sports psychology class, but if it's okay, you don't provide nearly enough support for your conclusion that AAS should be legalized. In fact, your conclusion seems like an afterthought in comparison to the section about the Olympics. For example, legalization might also be a better way to ensure quality control of drugs and proper hygiene. You could (and probably should) also examine countries where AAS are legal and use them as case studies to make your argument, citing relevant facts and figures (such as a comparison of usage statistics, public perception of AAS, etc.).

You also completely ignore what is probably the most significant counterargument: the general public perception is that AAS usage for sport (or even in general) is unethical and constitutes cheating. Successfully arguing against the grain when it comes to issues of morality is not going to be easy, so good luck.

There are also a lot of very subjective arguments made that are insufficiently supported. Clean them up. Psychologists are touchy people when it comes to treating psychology like a science, so if you can use more facts and less opinions you will do much better.

Finally, I like what flip said about drawing a distinction between use and abuse. Well it's fine and dandy to compare medical statistics for AAS-related deaths and NSAID-related deaths, there's one critical difference: there is no evidence to suggest that NSAIDs possess any addictive potential (though citing this data may be useful to illustrate the large therapeutic index of steroids: I just don't think claiming a legal double standard is a good way to formulate an argument). Addictive potential is something to consider that is most certainly relevant to psychology. You'll also have to support your case for legalization with more than just saying "but alcohol and tobacco are legal and addictive! And they're worse!" Comparing AAS to other substances is a fallacious argument, since I could very easily argue that perhaps alcohol and tobacco shouldn't be legal, rather than that AAS should be.


Some tough love here and I was frankly expecting it. Psychology is not my strongest subject, it never has been which is why I posted this here hoping to get some insight.

I will certainly go back to the drawing board with this paper.


Thata boy.

Tough love is extremely productive when not taken personally.

Ok. So REALLY think about what your thesis statement is going to be. What will you be arguing? Why? Who is your audience and what will the opposition have to say?


I'm thinking I should make my thesis seem less agenda driven. Rather than make a case for the legalization of steroids I should instead just examine why is it that athletes are driven to use steroids in the first place.
When making my case I can still make the case that the risks of steroid use are overrated but I can do so from the perspective of the athletes who make such rationalizations to justify their own reasons for using steroids. I had wanted to make a case about use VS abuse but the problem I found is that any use for performance enhancing purposes would be considered abuse in the modern day medical community so I felt it would make my argument too anecdotal.

People who read my paper and already have strong opinions against steroids will likely argue that it is cheating. I felt I addressed this somewhat with my point that since there is no full-proof way to eliminate the use of steroids in sports it is exceptionally difficult for someone to compete on a professional level in certain sports like weightlifting and bodybuilding without using AAS. I feel I can perhaps get more data to support this such as testimonials from retired athletes who admitted to steroid use during their careers as well as from coaches who witnessed and even promoted steroid use during the Olympic games.

I think a lot of the content I can leave in my original paper, I just need to clean it up like you said, add more statistics and actually explore the opposing side of the argument.


Sounds like your figuring it out. As mentioned taking criticism in a constructive way is good, there are alot of online peer review journals that work in the same way, although the main difference being it's mainly nerd scholars and not meat heads directing you into include certain info. Just a general thought, what if they took the time out to test all athletes within specific sports to see where their testosterone levels were at?

Could you draw a conclusion that nature in itself is not fair because people may naturally have lower test levels then others? I'm trying to get at that nature is not a level playing field it is only a thought in our heads and it sucks that the general population assumes everyone has the same chance from birth which isn't the case. Just a personal thought.


First sentence of your post said it all man. Be objective...persuade your audience from behind the curtain.


I like that testing idea. Make a pretty decent argument.

Try testing all champion Olympic strength based athletes...lower levels of myostatin.


Yes, I see what you're saying and I like what you're suggesting. Focusing on the genetic disadvantages some people have and making the case from an athlete's point of view that using steroids gives people that would otherwise be hopelessly outclassed a fighting chance seems to be a good way to go about it.

Fortunately I still have a little time before I have to submit the final draft.


Having argued to juries and especially to appellate courts, may I recommend a little intellectual Judo?

Specifically, people immediately get their back up being told something they don't want to hear, and disregard your point.

A slying more persuasive approach is to present the facts, even appear to be arguing against your position, but have the results be such that the reader is screaming at you "no, you're wrong, AAS are good!"

Intellectual (or psuedo intellectuals like professors and appellate judges) were rewarded by years of indocrination that the counter-intuitive is the correct answer, because that's what "clever" kids do.

Simply follow this pattern and have the counter-intutive answer be what you want it to be. The "clever kid" professor will fall for it 99.44% of the time.

This sadly has worked for me, career-wise, over and over.