There are many types of performance enhancing drugs that are available legally and illegally. These substances mainly consist of anabolic steroids, growth hormones, and testosterone boosters. The use of these substances outside of medical purposes has been known to help the body recover faster and be able to perform at a higher level, more frequently. You may say this is a good thing, but the risks are cause for legitimate concern. Let’s look at some more closely.
Anabolic steroids and growth hormones are known to increase muscle mass and strength. The main anabolic hormone produced by the body is testosterone. Most often, the anabolic steroids that athletes and bodybuilders use are synthetic versions of testosterone. These kinds of drugs have been approved for medical uses, but improving athletic performance is not one of these things. These are the most popular form of performance enhancer. This kind of drug is so appealing because, other than making muscles bigger, anabolic steroids help athletes recover from workouts faster by reducing muscle damage during a training session. This means that these athletes are able to work harder and more frequently, since the period of full recovery has been shortened. The danger of these products is that not only have anabolic effects, but androgenic effects as well. These accentuate male traits but also cause prominent breasts, baldness, and sometimes infertility amongst many other side effects. Both men and women can experience this with anabolic steroids.
ProCon.org answered the question if performance enhancing drugs (such as steroids) should be allowed in sports like this:
Proponents of accepting performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sports argue that their harmful health effects have been overstated, that health risks are an athlete’s decision to make, that using drugs is part of the evolution of sports much like improved training techniques and new technologies, and that efforts to keep athletes from using PEDs are overzealous, unproductive, unfairly administered, and bound to fail.
Opponents argue that PEDs are harmful and potentially fatal, and that athletes who use them are cheaters who gain an unfair advantage, violate the spirit of competition, and send the wrong message to children. They say PED users unfairly diminish the historic achievements of clean athletes, and that efforts to stop PED use in sports should remain strong.
According to usada.org, performance enhancing drugs have the ability or potential to drastically alter the human body and its biological functions, including the ability to considerably improve athletic performance. These drugs however can be extremely dangerous and in some cases even deadly. Now, there are very legitimate uses for such drugs. These drugs were originally created for medical purposes, but were discovered to enhance athletic performance when there was no specific reason to take them.
According to the latest Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) done in 2013, sponsored by MetLife Foundation, 11% of teens in high school reported ever having used synthetic growth hormone without prescription. These teens are taking a dangerous risk by using this drug. Many times these teens don’t actually know what is in these synthetic drugs; they just know it can give them the upper hand. In a society where winning is everything, kids will do just about anything to help them achieve what parents and coaches want them to achieve.
Meanwhile in the college game, there is little to nothing major done to eradicate performance enhancers from the game. College institutions are hesitant to pay big money for testing and the random testing that is done doesn’t provide much effort to discipline players. Instead they go for cheaper testing on drugs like marijuana which allows them to say they’re doing everything they can to keep drugs out of college sports.
ESPN looked into the issue with Don Catlin, an anti-doping pioneer who spent years conducting the NCAA’s laboratory tests at UCLA. Catlin left the college testing industry out of frustration with the system and began to focus on anti-doping research. Catlin said players are notified multiple days before a drug test and many schools don’t test for steroids. This is an easy was to reduce the numbers of positive outcomes and keep the schools safe from embarrassing drug scandals. Because of the warning, it’s easy to anticipate the test and develop a steroid cycle that will result in a negative test. The NCAA rules state that players may be notified two days in advance of a test. In comparison, Olympic athletes are given no notice in order to get the truest results. Catlin says two days in plenty of time to beat a test if players have designed the right doping regimen. “Everybody knows when testing is coming. They all know. And they know how to beat the test,” Catlin said. “Only the really dumb ones are getting caught.”
In conclusion, as you move up in the world of sports testing for performance enhancing drugs gets more rigorous, but there are still ways to beat it. Do the benefits of taking performance enhancers outweigh the risks though? Not all cases of abusing these substances are life-threatening, but many athletes suffer through the side-effects that these drugs cause. It is ultimately dangerous and unethical to do that to yourself and many people view it as an unfair advantage.