Effect of Steroids on Health of Athletes

Table of Content

Drug use has been a widely reported phenomenon in the athletic world. The chemical substances present in the drugs interact with the biochemical system of the body, altering and stimulating body tissues, nervous system and metabolic process for enhanced performance (Mottram, 2003, 1). Use of performance drugs in athletics has been reported even in the ancient Greece in 3rd century B. C and in the ancient Olympic games (Verroken, 2003, 29). More recently, in early nineteenth century use of cocaine, caffeine, strychnine, ether, and alcohol have been reported by individuals to increase their efficiency and output (Goldman, 1992).

The use of drugs in sports events increased further in 20th century, the most common of them being anabolic steroids. Their dangerous effect was manifest with reported deaths of athletes due to use of amphetamine abuse in 1960 Rome Olympics (Verroken, 2003, 30). Since then various reported incidents and scientific studies have indicated towards the harmful effect of performance enhancements drugs on health of athletes. Anabolic steroids and testosterone

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Anabolic steroids are man made performance boosting drugs that are synthetic derivative of male hormone testosterone or C-19 steroid harmone and androgen (Dowshen, 2006). The full name is androgenic (promoting masculine characteristics) anabolic (building) steroids (the class of drugs). These derivatives of testosterone promote the growth of skeletal muscle and increase lean body mass. They help to reinforce the natural effect of male hormones testosterone that increases stamina and energy thereby stimulating the body for extra performance and as such athletes have been frequently used by athletes.

The Olympic games of 1952 heralded the era of steroids in the world of professional world when use of steroids helped many athletes to surpass their competitors and create long queue of gold medals for their countries. Soon steroids abuse became rampant and brought immediate success for the abusers. In fact they became so popular that more than 20 percent intercollegiate athletes, 33 percent power lifters and 55 percent other professional athletes used some or other forms of steroids between 1976-84 (Pope and Katz, 1988; Yesalis et al. However, steroids have proved to be dangerous substances for the health of athletes in the longer time frame. Although it is true that their use increases performance and stamina in high-energy sports such as cycling and swimming, yet eventually they severely impair the health of abusers (Anabolic Steroid Abuse, 2007). A healthy human male body produces around 8-10 mg of testosterone everyday after attaining puberty for its normal functioning (George, 2003, 139).

The testosterone hormone has two principle effect on human body (i) Androgenic effect: development of primary sexual characteristics, responsible for development of male genitals in fetus. (ii) Anabolic effects: anabolic effect of testosterone entails the secondary sexual characteristics in adolescents such as faster protein synthesis, muscular growth, and skeletal growth (ibid). However, it has been experimented and observed that its impossible to dissociate the androgenic effect and anabolic effect of testosterone.

This implies that testosterone steroids, even though administered only for anabolic effects, would necessarily produce androgenic effect too. This, coupled with the hormonal imbalance and chemical instability introduced by the steroids results in severely harmful effects that are discussed in the next section. Some of the major anabolic steroids, according to percentage of their use are a) Methandrostenolone (b) testosterone esters (c) Nandrolone (d) Oxandrolone (e) Stanozolol (f) Methenolone Bio-chemical effect of steroids on athletes

Excessive use of steroids causes a number of harmful effects, some of which are mild and impermanent and some long lasting and severe, resulting occasionally even in death of the abuser. Steroids affect the users at many important levels (Anabolic Steroid Abuse, 2007) Hormonal effect: Excessive use of steroids cause disruption in normal hormonal production of the body. Examples of these changes include reduction in sperm production, testicular atrophy (shrinking of testicles), baldness and gynecomastia (development of breasts in male).

In controlled studies over male bodybuilders using steroids, more than 50 percent showed testicular atrophy and gynecomastia. Other consequences of steroids abuse include pain during urination, impotence and sterility in men (Dowshen, 2006). In case of females, use of anabolic steroids results in emergence of masculine traits such as decrease in breast size, body fat, increase in size of clitoris and deepening of voice. Excessive use of steroids can also lead to growth of body hair, facial hairs and possible hair losses from scalp. Cardiovascular effect: Steroid use also cause dangers of cardiovascular disease in the abusers.

Heart attacks and strokes have been reported in even young abusers of steroids. According to report of NIDA (2007), steroids change the levels of lipoproteins, the cholesterol carrying substance in the blood. They partially increase level of low-density lipoprotein while decreasing the levels of high-density lipoproteins. This reverted combination of lipoproteins produces a condition where more and more fatty substances start to get deposited inside the arteries and being to disrupt normal flow of blood to heart leading to conditions of heart attack, or stroke if the blood fails to reach the brain.

Other risks related with use of steroids include (Winning at any cost, 2006) Impaired liver function Blood filled cyst in livers that can rupture and cause liver failure (Peliosis Hepatitis) Tumors Acne and rashes on skins Edema (water retention) Aids (if same injection is used) Increase in prostrate cancer risks Increased risks of cervical and endometrial cancer Birth defects. Many athletes also take doses of creatine to boost power and energy for short term. Creatine is a compound that body naturally produces for its use, however its high use can cause such problems in athletes as stomach cramps, muscle cramps, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting.

Excessive use can be potentially dangerous leading to failures of vital organs such as kidney, liver and heart (Mayoclinic, 2006) To stop the abuse of steroids it is important that athletes and students are educated on the dangers involved with occasional and persistent use of steroids. As steroids are addictive in nature, it is vital to inform the potential abusers that even a contained use may lead to continued future abuse and the consequent health disorders that can very jeopardize their normal life. .


Anabolic Steroids and Sports: Winning at any Cost. 2006. Department of Health. New York State. 21. 0. 2007. http://www. health. state. ny. us/publications/1210/ Anabolic Steroid Abuse. 2007. What are the health consequences of steroids abuse? National Institute on Drug Abuse. 21-03-2007. http://www. nida. nih. gov/ResearchReports/Steroids/anabolicsteroids4. html Dowshen, S. 2006. Are steroids worth the risk? Teenhealth. 21-03-2007. http://www. kidshealth. org/teen/drug_alcohol/drugs/steroids. html Goldman B. (1992) Death in the Locker Room/drugs and sports. Elite Sports Medicine Publications, Illinois, USA Mayoclinic. Taking Performance Enhancing Drugs. 21. 0. 007. http://www. mayoclinic. com/health/performance-enhancing-drugs/HQ01105 Mottram D. R. 2003. Drugs in Sport. (edit) David R. Mottram. Routledge: New York. Pope, H. G. and Katz, D. L. (1988) Affective and psychotic symptoms associated with anabolic steroid use. Am. J. Psychiat. ,145, 487-490. Verroken, M. 2003. Drugs in Sport. (edit) David R. Mottram. Routledge: New York. Yesalis, C. E. , Herrick, R. T. , Buckley, W. E. , Frieck, K. E. , Brannon, D. and Wright, J. E. (1988) Self-reported use of anabolic androgenic steroids by elite power lifters. Phys. Sports Med. ,16, 91-100.

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