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Creatine and Androstenedione Supplements for Athletes

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    Statement of the ProblemIn the passed few years there has been an increase in the popularity ofperformance-enhancing supplements that are used by athletes. Some of the mostpopular of these supplements are creatine and androstenedione. They are used bysome very famous athletes in professional sports. There are many problems thatgo along with using these supplements that are not only health-wise, but also themessage that is being sent to children involved in youth athletics. Athletes todayare not thinking of what kind effects will happen to them in the long run. However, they are looking for easier ways of training and enhancing theirperformance. They are under a great deal of pressure to succeed and win all thetime that it must be easier to find a short cut to being an elite athlete. In this paperI will explore the risks with these supplements, some regulations that are placed onathletes to, and if they truly work. Also I will give an overview of what bothcreatine and androstenedione are.

    IntroductionFor as long as I can remember I have been involved in athletics of all kindsand have always loved the atmosphere that sports provide. Being involved in bothhigh school basketball and golf and now finally playing golf for Xavier, I havebeen subjected to rigorous training and conditioning. Never once did I have theaid of any type of artificial supplement or performance-enhancing drug helping mecondition or build muscles faster. However, when I was in high school I wasaware of may guys who were taking these supplements such as creatine andandrostenedione and getting very muscular, extremely fast. “Creatine andandrostenedione” were common words used around the halls of my school. Hearing these words made me curious about what exactly they were, what theeffects they had on athletes, and if they were illegal. I found it very interestingthat these supplements were somehow all over the news and that some reallyfamous athletes had used them. I wondered if they were safe to use and if theyhad any side effects. In researching this topic of artificial supplements andperformance-enhancing drugs, I had many mixed feelings about how I felt abouttheir use by athletes. However, after my research was completed I have a firmopinion that these supplements should be banned from athletics all together.

    Research QuestionsMany questions came up during my research of theseperformance-enhancing supplements. Among one of my first questions was,”What exactly are creatine and androstenedione?” This and many of the otherquestions I had about the supplements were answered for me in a recent articlefrom People Weekly entitled “Hazard Alert.(muscle-building supplements taken byathletes)” which was a interview of correspondent Jennifer Longley by CharlesYesalis, a professor at Penn State who spent 19 years studying the use ofperformance-enhancing drugs by athletes. According to this article:Creatine is an amino acid in everyone’s body. It’s taken to significantlyenhance reserves in your muscle fuel tank, allowing you to work outlonger and more intensely. There’s no evidence to show that it’s anabolic–that is, that it’s going to build muscle in and of itself. But itcould lead to modest muscle gain because it allows you to work outharder. Androstenedione is a sex steroid hormone, which is converted inyour body to testosterone. The controversy is whether it is anabolic, andwhether it increases testosterone when taken in large quantities. It’slegally classified as a food supplement. But I think that’s bunk. It’s adrug. (Hazard Alert 143).

    After fully understanding the meaning of these definitions and explanations Ibecame more curious. Grasping the whole concept of these supplements was hardenough for the average person to handle and how scientific everything has trulybecome. No longer are athletes alone in training, but now have the aid of thesesupplements. It seems as almost an unfair advantage over other athletes who arenot using these artificial aids.

    After thinking of these supplements as an unfair advantage I needed proofthat they did work. Longley had come to this conclusion, “There’s credibleevidence that creatine does work. . .The gains in energy and strength are small–butsignificant enough to be very valuable to a competitive athlete. I’m skepticalabout androstenedione. I could make an argument that it does work, but I’ve heardsome anecdotal evidence that it does.”(Hazard Alert 143). Also in Longley’sanswer to if creatine works she rates creatine on a scale from 0 to 100 ofperformance-enhancing abilities as about a 15 and anabolic steroids being 100. Sothis shows that it doesn’t have the most evident effect on the athlete as say”steroids” but it does have a minimum effect on performance-enhancing. Thenafter discovering if these supplements work the next question that arose was,”What are the side effects?” From Longley’s research:To date, side effects reported from taking creatine are gastrointestinal–gasand muscle cramping. But that doesn’t mean we won’t discover something serious in five to ten years. The risks of androstenedionehaven’t been thoroughly studied. If you really load this up in the body,this drug may impact hormones and organs in ways that I couldn’t evenimagine. If it is converted to testosterone, then you’d have the traditionaleffects that you see with testosterone, including liver damage and increased risk of stroke. In young kids, a large level of the hormone mayfalsely signal the body into shutting down their growth plates. If God hadscheduled them to be 6’3″, they may end up being 5’10”. For girls orwomen, it could permanently masculinize them, causing a 5 o’clockshadow or a deep voice. (Hazard Alert 143).

    For the most part these side effects are not extremely dangerous, but they can leadto hazardous health problems down the road. Also considering the fact that for themost part these supplements are fairly new on the market there hasn’t been enoughextensive research done to show how much damage can be done to an athlete. After all taking excessive amounts of any of these two supplements can lead toextreme problems that could be fatal. Like the research shows for excessive use oftestosterone androstenedione increases one’s risk of having liver damage or evenmore deadly, a stroke.

    Another question that Longley addressed in her interview was that of,”Why is androstenedione banned in some sports but not in others?” I found herresponse to this question very interesting. Her answer was very opinionated andthe reason that she gave were very comical. She stated:I think the National Basketball Association, pro baseball and the NationalHockey league have had the luxury of keeping their hands in the sandwhen it comes to performance-enhancing drugs because the public has notperceived them as having been a problem in those sports unlike in theNFL. Baseball doesn’t eve have the pretense of drug testing. But there are estimates that 10 to 30 percent of pro baseball players and 50 to 80percent of football linemen have used steroids at some point. There’s aconspiracy of silence. The attitude is, do what you have to do to win, butkeep your mouth shut. (Hazard Alert 143).

    I think that this answer to the question of why androstenedione is not banned fromsome sports, but banned from others is very accurate. It is true that peopleinvolved in sports would rather look the other way when it comes to athletestaking supplements that enhance their performance. Fans don’t care as long asthey are entertained and are having fun at games and coaches just want their teamsto be successful. Which sometimes includes doing other forms of training or aidsto help the athletes. It is ridiculous that such a high percent of athletes are usingperformance-enhancing drugs or steroids to help them get bigger. I always learnedthat in order to be a successful athlete a person would have to work endlessly. This is still true, but only to a certain extent because now an athlete can take pillsto help them workout more. I think that is why it was so puzzling to me when Idiscovered that many newsworthy athletes had been using performance-enhancingsupplements. I always have had the mindset that athletes could never buy theirabilities and now that seems to be wrong because of these supplements.

    Review of LiteratureThe first article I found about creatine and androstenedione was fromPeople Weekly entitled “Hazard Alert.” This article was excellent because itprovided answers to almost all the questions that I had about these supplements. Ithad a very interesting interviews of people who have been researching thesesupplements for years. Also in this article I found out about Mark McGwire’s useof both creatine and androstenedione. It said that he had been using bothsupplements, but never did he make any attempt to cover this up or hide this fromthe media. In this article it also said that sales of these supplements are going toskyrocket simply because of McGwire’s use of them. According to this article, “. . . sales of the steroid (androstenedione) are expected to top $100 million thisyear, up from $5 million in 1997.” (Hazard Alert 143). Another interesting factthat I learned was that, “The national chain General Nutrition Centers has sent amemo to its 3,700 outlets telling them not to stock androstenedione, preciselybecause of safety concern.” (Hazard Alert 143). Among the other articles I found was Jack McCallum’s article from SportsIllustrated called “Swallow the pill.” This article mainly focused on the MarkMcGwire fairy tale story of him breaking the most highly recognized record inbaseball of Roger Maris’s single-season homerun record. I found it to be verydefensive of McGwire in that the author said, “Get this straight: McGwire’s use ofandrostenedione, which he may not have advertised but didn’t try to hide, shouldnot taint his achievement if he breaks Roger Maris’s homerun record.” (McCallum 17). Also in this article was a number of different examples of othersthat are taking performance-enhancing supplements in baseball. For example, “. . .Houston Astros star Jeff Bagwell told The Houston Chronicle, two weeksbefore the McGwire storm erupted, that he had taken it (androstenedione).”(McCallum 17). In this article McGwire is reported in saying that he is not aloneand that at least nine or ten of his St. Louis teammates use androstenedione. Thisarticle too like the People Weekly article touches upon the idea of childrenthinking that they, “. . . should not try to buy a baseball career in a bottle.”(McCallum 17). I think that this is a very important idea to continue to drive intothe minds of young people who want to be involved in athletics.

    The article “Shadow of Doubt: did drug use kill Florence Griffith Joyner?”is another fascinating article that touches on the risks of performance-enhancingsupplements. In this article the suspicions of Flo-Jo taking “banned substances”are addressed. According to Dr. Albert Fraser, a clinical-forensic toxicologist atDalhousie University in Halifax, “The chances are nil that there are any traces ofthose drugs left in her body tissue.” (“Shadow of Doubt” 62). So even if she diduse illegal supplements during the Olympics there would be no way of ever beingable to trace the substances in her body. Also in this article Darrell Robinsonreported to Stern, a German magazine, that he had bought human growthhormones for Flo-Jo prior to the Seoul Olympics. Her response to this report was,”Darrell, you are a compulsive, crazy, lying lunatic.” (“Shadow of Doubt” 62). This is another case that was very surprising to me because in this case she diedand of heart seizures which could have quiet possibly have been brought upon byperformance-enhancing supplements. Dr. Jean-Pierre de Mondenard, a Frenchsports physician and drug expert is quoted in saying that, “It is probable that sheused drugs, but others, notably in East Germany, did the same. Other famousathletes are going to die and we will know it.” (“Shadow of Doubt” 62). Thedoctors today are devoting a lot of effort to find out more information about thesesupplements and how they are going to effect athletes in the long run. AlsoWerner Franke, a German molecular biologist and expert in drugs and sports saidthat, “This death (of Florence Griffith Joyner) was foreseeable.” (“Shadow of Doubt” 62). Finally, some doctors and scientists are paying moreattention to the substances that athletes take in order to prevent more deaths amongathletes that could have been prevented.

    “Drugs and Darwin fuel athletes” contained similar information about theathletes I had already read about, but in every article I found there weredifferences about the same athletes. For example in this article I learned that,”Mark McGwire is the first athlete in history to break a record while publiclyadmitting his use of performance-enhancing drugs.” (Barnard 48). In this veryopinionated article it touches upon some of the myths behind, “the moral crusadeagainst the use of drugs in sport.” One myth is that, “. . . fans won’t pay to seedrug-aided athletes perform.” (Barnard 48). The other myth is, “. . . using drugsmeans that athletes don’t have to work for their achievements.” (Barnard 48). In away I agree with this myth simply because if an athlete is usingperformance-enhancing supplements then they have more energy to workout andthese supplements also help build up muscles faster than without the aid of asupplement at all. So I don’t see how athletes are totally working for theiraccomplishments entirely all by themselves because without the aid of artificialsupplements they would have to work a lot harder to build themselves up. Eventhough I disagree with some comments in this article the one quote that Ireally did agree with was that of Nicholas Pierce. He says that, “Athletes willalways be pushing themselves to the limit; if you could help push them further,they will go further.” This is very true because I know that I am willing to doalmost anything to improve my golf game and if someone is willing to show meanother way to do something I am all for learning new ideas and pushing myself todo better.

    Another Sports Illustrated article called “Throwing in the towel: beating ahasty retreat in the war on drugs,” caught my attention because of the informationit had on the International Olympic Committee. It seem as though lately there hasbeen a number of cases involving Olympic athletes that have tested positive orhave been suspended for drug violations. The IOC appears to be one of the moststrict when it comes to drugs that are in violation of policy and that is why thestatement of IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch was so shocking to the rest ofthe committee. He said, “The list of drugs banned from the Olympics ought to bedrastically reduced to exclude performance-enhancing drugs that don’t havedangerous side effects.” (Rushin 17). Coming from the president this is probablynot the reaction that one want to hear in fighting the war on banningperformance-enhancing supplements from athletics. According to this article, inthe last month U.S. shot-putter, Randy Barnes, and sprinter, Dennis Mitchell havebeen suspended by the International Amateur Athletics Federation for positivedrug tests, also four Chinese swimmers received bans for drugs violations (Rushin 17). Also the Irish swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin could possibly bebanned from competition for life because of tampering with her urine sample in adrug test. This article is another controversial one that shows how many differentopinions there are surrounding athletes’ use of performance-enhancingsupplements.

    After finding out about Michelle Smith de Bruin I was curious to learnmore about the story that enveloped her. I found the Time article “With a Splash”to give a more in-depth interpretation of what really happened. De Bruin wonthree gold medals at the Atlanta Olympics where she was an older competitor atthe age of 26. However, in her recent urine test there were, “. . . no steroids, butdid detect unequivocal signs of adulteration’ that would mask the drugs, by meansof an after-the-fact addition of alcohol, probably whisky.” (“With a Splash” 86). Even with this startling discovery De Bruin says, “I’m not going to crawl under astone,” and she plans on suing the international governing organization forswimmers and appealing their decision. Which was to ban her completely fromever competing again or at least for four years which would inevitably end hercareer because she would be too old. Finally the article closes with a quote fromfive-time U.S. Olympic coach, Mark Schubert, “Experienced people know thetelltale signs of doing illegal things to get fast.” So basically it is not worth theconsequences of getting caught because somehow and some way everyone getscaught.

    ConclusionFor the most part the rest of my resources reiterated all of my mostinformative articles that I used as major references when writing this researchpaper. Throughout my research it was very interesting to find many differentopinions of the position of performance-enhancing supplements in athletics. Thereis one side that is saying they should be banned totally and another that wantsthem to be allowed in competition as long as they’re not too much of an aid to theathletes that would make it unfair to other competitors. Personally, I am on theside that says they should be banned totally in all sporting events. My opinion isthis way because being an athlete in really isn’t necessary for a person to takesomething to enhance their performance even more and that the drive should comefrom within and not a pill or powder. These supplements are also potentiallydangerous and I think that they come with a very negative image to childrengetting involved in athletics and witnessing professional athletes use them. I findit hard to believe that professional athletes need the assistance of creatine orandrostenedione to help them train for their sport or event. Athletic ability doesn’tcome in an over-the-counter bottle and it will never. So I feel that it is pointless touse these supplements simply for the reason of “getting big.” In conclusion, theseperformance-enhancing supplements should be made less excessible and bannedfrom athletic events.

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