Steroids In Sports

Steroids In Sports

The steroid use in sports began long time ago. It was just before the 1954 World Weightlifting Championships. The Soviets made their Olympic debut in Helsinki in 1952. Their impact was impressive, but nothing compared to the show they put on in 1954. They easily dominated most of the weight classes. John Ziegler was team physician for the United States at the time and he questioned the soviet team´s doctor after the medals ceremony. He immediately admitted that his team was receiving testosterone injections. That was probably the first time anabolic steroids were used to enhance performance in an athletic event. There are unconfirmed rumours that testosterone was used by Germany´s Olympic team in 1936 for the Berlin Olympics. According to the source an Olympic medal winner had used oral Testosterone preparations. But the benefit (due to the technology regarding oral testosterone at that time) would have been minor. As for the Soviets, however, they were not using oral steroids but something different. And everyone wanted to know what it was.

The first attempt for anabolic performance enhancement goes back to the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece, however. Athletes ingested various herbs and foods with the hopes of improving their performance. The winner of the Olympic Games in 480 B.C. apparently said he ate nothing but meat for 10 months prior to the Games. We now know that meat is high in vitamin B and Creatine and both of them can enhance performance. The earliest attempts to increase Testosterone were documented in 776 BC. Olympic athletes´ at the time ingested sheep´s testicles, which would be a source of Testosterone production. The methods might seem extreme to us now, but it was a small price to pay for the win. They did not compete for the participation or pride. They did it for money and prestige. That is why they sought out performance enhancers.

Professional athletes´ today have very lucrative contracts and sponsorship deals. Steroids enhance performance, reduce and repair injuries and lengthen careers. Therefore, it is no surprise that Dr. Ziegler immediately began researching testosterone. What he developed in late 1956 with the help of the Ciba pharmaceutical company was called “Methandrostenolone” or Dianabol. This was the first anabolic steroid created. The first one that wasn´t simply testosterone, that is. By the early 1960s, Ziegler´s weightlifters were dominating American weightlifting. Since then, many different steroids with their own set of characteristics, have been developed.

By the late 1960´s the East Germans were also giving steroids to their athletes to bolster national pride by winning Olympic Gold Medals. In 1968 Dr. Hoeppner, East Germany´s Chief Medical Officer, submitted a report to the government. He recommended the total collective administration of steroids to the East German athletes. For about two decades after this report, the East Germans´ took home both medals and world records at every major worldwide sporting event.

Many of different compounds had been used in attempts to enhance the performance, for example Brandy lased with cocaine and strychnine by an American marathoner in the 1904 Olympics or nitro-glycerine a couple of decades later… but none were as powerful as anabolic steroids. Therefore, Dianabol was quickly available to anyone looking for an extra edge. Many bodybuilders, weightlifters, football players, and Olympic athletes trained harder, longer, and more efficiently. It enhanced protein synthesis and allowed new muscle to be built more rapidly than would otherwise be possible. That increased translated to financial rewards for the athletes.

Dianabol was an indispensable part of the athlete’s dietary intake at that point. And the “steroid arms-race” was in full swing. Athletes from all over the world wanted to know how to get there and countries were competing to develop new steroids and protocols for using them.

In 1968 World Health Organization made an official complaint about steroids. Steroids were being over produced and shipped to third world countries. Doctors there would receive kickbacks to prescribe them. The main countries where this was happening, were Kenya and Jamaica and they did very well at the Olympics that year.

At this time in the USA, athletes began to be able to support themselves by just playing their sport. There were no documented reports of athletes using steroids in sports other than Olympic competition at this time. But a ban was issued on Anabolic steroids by the International Olympic Council, and in the following decades, most professional sports organizations would follow suit.

The original ban was not enacted for safety but for ethical and moral concerns. Shortly after the first athlete was caught breaking that ban. In 1972, an American swimmer Rick De Mont was found to be using a banned substance, ephedrine. He had asthma and ephedrine was an approved medication for it… In 1970 Arnold Schwarzenegger won his first of seven Mr. Olympia titles, reportedly with the aid of little blue Dianabol pills.

Steroid use in the Olympics went on in a hiding game between the athletes and the International Olympic Committee. The athletes were mostly very successful at avoiding positive drug tests. The East Germans developed new compounds to avoid detection. The Russians and Americans were also very successful at this game.

By the 1990´s, Anabolic Steroids penetrated into every possible sport from the professional ranks down to the High-School level. There were occasional scandals, but nothing really captured the general public´s attention.

Steroids in High School Sports

Steroids in high-school have become a hot topic in the media and at various levels of the government. It is a topic that is at the forefront of many high-school athletes, their parents, coaches and teachers. Attempts to scare and spread misinformation failed to prevent anabolic steroid use in high schools, therefore education and truth are the best ways to deal with it.

(Mis)information on steroids in schools started becoming widespread in the middle of 1980’s. At that time the position taken by the educational community was that steroids do not enhance athletic performance. It was also said that they carry with them the great probability of permanent health damage.

A study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1988 examined Anabolic Steroid use patterns among the male adolescents. Overall participation rate in a survey on a school-wide basis was 68.7% and on an individual basis was just over 50%. The participants were 12th-grade male students in 46 high schools across the nation. The questionnaire asked them several questions regarding their current or previous use of Anabolic Steroids. The results were that 6.6% of 12th grade male students use or have used Anabolic Steroids and that over two thirds of the users were 16 years of age or younger when they did their first cycle.

In 1990 there was a survey that discovered that 94 of 2113 high school students (4.4%) admitted using anabolic steroids. 6.5% of male students and 2.5% of female students were users of steroids. Furthermore, athletes had a greater use of steroids (5.5%) than non-athletes (2.4%).

Then there was a survey done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that discovered that steroid use among high school students “more than doubled” between 1991 and 2003. Just over 6% of 15,000 students surveyed admitted trying steroid pills or injections. The percentage didn’t change since 1988, but at this time and fewer than 4% of the nation´s high schools were testing for steroids. The rate of steroid use is relatively steady at between 4 and 6%, yet the researches tell us that it´s an epidemic.

So, the media is obviously over estimating the widespread usage of anabolic steroids among athletes as it often claims it reach as high as 20-90%. Scientific studies are indicating that usage is actually rare and generally no higher than 6%. Furthermore, there are strong indications that anabolic steroid usage actually declines progressively from high school to college. To be honest, high school students should not be using anabolic steroids. But it is not a problem as big as it is shown in the media. If we put it in perspective, 76.8% of 12th graders have drunk alcohol and the rates of use for most other drugs like Marijuana, Cocaine, Ecstasy are significantly higher than they are for steroid use.

There were cases that were grabbed by media, like students committed suicide due to their steroids use. Anyway, dr. Jack Darkes, who is a Director of Interventions, Alcohol and Substance Use Research Institute at the University of South Florida and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology claims that steroids could not be blamed for it. Education at the high school level on anabolic steroids is important as well is education of the parents, coaches, and teachers with medically based and unbiased information.

Recent research indicates that a major media outlet can build an agenda for the entire media and thereby influence policy changes. If the media gives out a feeling that steroids are a rising problem and steroid abuse is becoming more common in high schools, but the hard-scientific date suggests otherwise – who will you believe? Let’s go with science and scientific studies before the media. But what is influencing government policy, is the media. And it started with steroids in baseball.

Steroids in Baseball

The last major sports organization in the USA to implement a comprehensive drug testing policy was major league baseball. It all started with a bottle of a nutritional supplement, that was found in Mark McGwire´s locker. It contained a compound which can convert into another one inside the body. The compound in question, Androstendione, converts to Testosterone once in the body. It was the time, when McGwire was on the way to break a home-run record, that had been held for decades. He retired after breaking that record, but path of steroids in baseball and the Major League Baseball organization went on.

A few years later, Ken Caminiti admitted to Sports Illustrated that he used anabolic steroids. He estimated that roughly fifty percent of the players were using them. This opened the gates for the media to begin their assault on Major League Baseball (MLB) organization. Caminiti´s story was the earliest and one of the most influential major media admission of steroid use, made by a recently retired former MVP in baseball´s professional ranks. Media attention to steroids in baseball peaked. Before the Sports Illustrated piece on Caminiti only ten articles were published in the mainstream media in three months. In the week of the Caminiti´s story hundreds of articles were put out.

The story of Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds and steroids in sports is probably most famous one. Both were suspected of using anabolic steroids when the BALCO scandal was exposed. Giambi told a grand jury that he used “the cream” and “the clear”, a duo of undetectable steroids, which he received from personal trainer Greg Anderson in the 2003 season. Bonds claimed that he was told by his trainer the substances were a pain-relieving balm for his arthritis and the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil. There was also a leek of a transcript of Bonds testimony. According to a transcript he admitted the use of the following: “the cream”, “the clear”, Depo-Testosterone, insulin, human growth hormone and a drug for female infertility that was used to mask steroid use. His attorney said the leak was engineered to discredit Mr. Bonds. Nevertheless, at the time steroids were not banned by MLB.

But all this media attention didn’t hurt baseball. Sales figures and attendance of baseball matches were in a slump before that and they´ve been climbing ever since. It just may be that all the additional home runs were a result of steroid use, combined with training methods and nutrition. In the ´90s home runs began to become more and more common. Not just due to steroid use, the construction of more “homer-friendly” ballparks also has something to do with it. Also adding a home-run friendly left field line, pulling in the distance from home-plate to outfield fence, the strike zone has become much more beneficial to hitters, … all this happened on stadiums built in USA. And there is still a question regarding steroids in major league baseball. Steroids are used by major league baseball players but that is not the only reason for the inflated home-run statistics. Steroids will continue to be used for as long as players can get away with it.

Steroids in Football

Steroid policy in football began in 1987. But first let’s take a look at the emerging trends in the high school and collegiate ranks. An examination of the heights and weights of members of the High School All-American Football Teams from 1963 to 1971 shows no significant changes in the BMI. The comparison from 1972 to 1989 shows a clear trend towards an increased BMI.

When talking of football, we could say that current educational efforts are not working well. Education isn´t changing the attitudes of high-school and college players, the players are getting significantly bigger. NFL linemen for example are now weighing well over 300lbs on average while 25 years ago, they weighed over fifty pounds less, on average.

As for the stories of steroid use in the NFL the most famous one is that of Lyle Alzado. He died from brain lymphoma in 1992, seven years after having a successful career in the NFL. It is a very rare form of brain cancer. He was 43 years old at the time and was often used as a symbol of the dangers of steroid abuse. There is however no medical link between steroids and brain lymphoma…

The next most influential story concerning steroids in football is probably the one of Bill Romanowski. He wasn´t indicted in the BALCO scandal, but did later wrote a book, in which he admits that he was introduced to several performance enhancing compounds. He was a very good linebacker before he used steroids, but people often attribute his tackling ability to the steroids, anyway.

Football players use steroids, let’s be honest. It occurs at the high-school levels, collegiate, and professional levels. And as long as there is prestige and money earned from playing football, there will be steroids in it.

Steroids in the Olympics

Anabolic steroid use probably began with the 1952 Olympics. Let’s finish this article with the most famous case of sports doping in the world. We are talking about the fastest man in the world, Ben Johnson. He broke the world sprinting record in the 1988 Seoul Olympics when he tested positive for Winstrol (Stanozolol). His coach, Charlie Francis provided some evidence for the test being unreliable. The accepted drug clearance time for Winstrol was +/- 3 days for the oral form and +/- 14 days for the injectable form at that time. Ben had used Winstrol 28 days prior to the race. What they found was the parent compound, which is odd, since the parent compound only lasts for 45 minutes after administration. They claimed that it was ingested just prior to the actual race. Ben Jonson and his coach denied this and as it was later discovered, someone as lean as Johnson may have even been clear in less than 3 days. Ben Johnson was nevertheless suspended and stripped of his Olympic Gold medal. He probably suffered the worst hate of all the people who have been caught using steroids.

The world of sports or at least the athletes have embraced the use of steroids. It is visible but not as widespread as thought. It is not the problem that it is often made out to be. Statistically, it is a very elusive topic, and sources often present conflicting data. Some athletes still do compete for the love of the game, but prestige often accompanies success. And they often find the opportunity to compete for both prestige as well as money and seek out performance enhancers.