Performance-enhancing drugs are often associated with illegal substances such as steroids. However, legal alternatives like creatine and androstenedione have emerged. Creatine is a naturally occurring chemical found in meat products and produced by the kidney. Its role is to aid muscle recovery after exercise, allowing athletes to build muscle mass more quickly (Gregorian 5).
Many top college sports teams, such as Nebraska and Northwestern, use creatine. The Husker Power strength program carefully measures and pours creatine into the designated athlete (Gregorian 1). Additionally, 25% of professional baseball, basketball, and hockey players consume creatine, and 50% of NFL players also use it (Gregorian 1).
Androstenedione, also referred to as andro, is a synthetic chemical that undergoes transformation into testosterone by the kidney (Scruff 1). Although it currently holds legality, it is gradually heading towards illegality. It fulfills two out of three conditions necessary to be classified as a steroid, with tests underway to determine compliance with the third criterion. Once it meets all requirements, it will be deemed a steroid and consequently outlawed. Additionally, its usage has been prohibited in professional tennis, the Olympics, and the NFL (Regan 2).
The article discusses a range of drugs, both legal and illegal, used for various purposes. Steroids are highlighted as one example of an illegal drug. Another lesser-known drug is erythropoietin (EPO), which boosts red blood cell production to deliver oxygen to muscles and other body parts. The text also mentions growth hormones, which aid in muscle recovery after exercising. A drug expert specializing in professional cycling notes that different drugs have been commonly used in different decades: amphetamines in the 70s, anabolic steroids and cortisone in the 80s, and growth hormones and EPO in the 90s.
In 1995, a survey conducted among 198 athletes revealed a concerning truth about their willingness to use banned performance enhancers. The survey presented the athletes with a scenario where they would be able to use such substances without being detected and guaranteed victory. Shockingly, out of the 198 participants, an overwhelming majority of 195 agreed to this proposition, while only three declined. Following this, these respondents were then exposed to another situation in which they would not only achieve continuous success in all competitions for five years but also face certain death due to the severe side effects of the substance. Surprisingly, even when confronted with this life-threatening prospect, over half of those surveyed still responded positively (Bamburger 1).
According to Bamburger (3), athletes can be categorized into three groups: those who do not use enhancers, those who use untested drugs or take them in undetectable amounts, and those who are caught after taking drugs. As a result, the utilization of performance-enhancing drugs should be discouraged because they provide an unfair advantage, involve substantial financial costs, and have multiple negative side effects.
While not everyone is in favor of prohibiting performance-enhancing drugs, Northwestern University football players Jay Tant and Dwayne Missouri gained around 30 pounds of muscle mass during their athletic careers as a direct result of using creatine and spending significant time in the weight room (Carlton 1). The use of creatine helps weightlifters and runners by allowing them to complete more repetitions in exercises like stair climbs, leading to an average muscle gain of 20 to 30 pounds within a few months (Schrof 2). This highlights one favorable aspect of enhancers.
Despite some valid arguments in favor of performance-enhancing drugs, there is stronger evidence suggesting that their utilization should be avoided. One key argument against their use is the unfair advantage it provides to users. According to Michael Bamburger, a columnist for Sports Illustrated, contemporary athletes appear to rely more and more on prohibited performance enhancers rather than solely relying on their innate talent and diligent efforts (1). Mark Asanovich, the strength and conditioning coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, likewise discourages the use of any performance enhancers and emphasizes the significance of fostering independence instead of dependence (Gregorian 2).
According to a drug dealer interviewed by Bamburger (3), athletes have expressed their reluctance to dedicate two years away from their families for training and sacrificing their college education, only to be deceived out of a medal by someone who is using performance-enhancing drugs. Interestingly, even athletes who currently use these drugs admit that they would not resort to them if there were no competitors doing the same, thus ensuring a fair competition.
Bamburger (5) states that EPO gives athletes an unjust edge by enhancing red blood cell production, leading to better oxygen supply to the muscles. Consequently, this enables them to perform at higher levels for extended periods while experiencing reduced fatigue.
One objection to performance-enhancing drugs is their expensive price. For example, the cost of a month’s worth of creatine can range from $40 to $70 (Gregorian 3), despite uncertainty about whether the weight gained is due to water retention or muscle mass (Gregorian 2). Likewise, the monthly expense of taking androstenedione can be approximately $50 to $90 (Schrof 1).
According to Bamburger (5), illegal performance enhancers like human growth hormones are pricier compared to legal ones. Taking human growth hormones costs approximately $1500 per month. However, the only person exempt from this expense is the dealer who can buy one kilogram of pure testosterone at a wholesale price of around $500. The dealer then combines it with calcium to produce tablets that can be sold to athletes for an astonishing $100,000 (Bamburger 5).
According to Dan Ellis, the performance and nutrition coordinator for the University of Nebraska, it is believed that the use of creatine requires careful management and a knowledgeable person, which can be costly. However, some doctors and sports trainers argue that taking supplements only results in expensive urine.
Incurring monetary costs can also arise if one is caught using or possessing drugs. Consequences can include fines, jail time, rehabilitation expenses, loss of endorsements, and potentially even unemployment. The International Olympic Committee refrains from conducting blood tests which could detect a wider range of drugs due to concerns about the public’s reaction upon learning about widespread drug use. Given that a significant portion of their funds comes from sponsors, exposing renowned athletes would generate extensive publicity and likely drive sponsors away, thus disillusioning the public (Bamburger 6).
According to Dr. Donald Catlin, the director of IOC testing, athletes who want to use performance-enhancing drugs have turned to substances that cannot be detected (Bamburger 2). However, if blood testing is implemented, these substances can be detected. It is important to remember that severe consequences may follow if an athlete is caught with these drugs. An instance occurred when a drug expert affiliated with a well-known cycling team was apprehended carrying prohibited substances while on their way to a cycling competition in Europe. The confiscated items included 324 doses of EPO, 211 vials of growth hormones and testosterone, and 60 pills of asaflov – a blood thinner. As a result, this individual received up to five years in prison for illegally trafficking performance-enhancing drugs and was banned from professional cycling for ten years (Swift 1).
One of the arguments against the use of performance-enhancing drugs is their negative physical side effects. This was exemplified in a high school football game in Kansas City, where 15 players consumed rapid fuel capsules to gain an advantage. Tragically, one player collapsed after taking four pills. It’s important to mention that improper usage of rapid fuel can result in cardiac arrhythmia and even death. Consequently, both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have prohibited the use of rapid fuel (Ivan 1,2).
Both Andro and synthetic steroids have similar side effects, which include acne, fits of rage, baldness, breast development in men, and stunted growth (Schrof 2). However, Andro can lead to more severe consequences like sterility, liver disease, cancer, and heart problems. This is why GNC stores do not sell androstenedione.
In contrast to Andro, creatine can result in cramping, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, muscle pulls and strains (Gregorian 3). Studies on rats suggest that creatine consumption may cause muscle swelling. Doctors express concerns about its potential impact on the heart when administered to major muscle groups (Carlton 1).
The Northwestern University football team attributes a series of hamstring pulls to creatine (Carlton 2). The FDA has concerns regarding the safety of creatine as there are no established studies supporting its safety and no long-term studies available (Gregorian 2,3). Allen Kaiehans, a researcher at the University of Oklahoma Med Center, also refuses to let his son take creatine due to concerns about safety and purity (Gregorian 2).
In summary, the use of performance enhancing drugs should be avoided due to the negative impact on the body, the high cost involved, and the unfair advantage it gives the users. Consequently, if this practice continues, watching sports may lose its excitement as the focus shifts from fair competition to who has access to superior drugs, rather than which team is genuinely better.
- Bamburger, Michael. Over the Edge. Sports Illustrated. 14 April, 1997: 60+. Sirs Researcher. Sirs Knowledge Source Millard South High School Library, Omaha NE. 16 Nov. 2000. www.sirs.com.
- Irving, Carter. High School Athletes Play with Health. Kansas City Star. 20 Oct. 1999: D1+. Sirs Researcher. Sirs Knowledge Source Millard South High School Library, Omaha NE. 16 Nov. 2000. www.sirs.com.
- Drug Official Says Andro to be Classified as a Steroid. Las Angles Times. 27 June 2000: 2. Electric Lib. Millard South High School Lib. Omaha, NE. 16 Nov. 2000. www.elibrary.com.
- Gregorian, Vahe. The Muscle Tussle. St. Louis Post. 31 May 1998: 5. Electric Lib. Millard South High School Lib. Omaha, NE. 16 Nov. 2000. www.elibrary.com.
- Regan, Tom. Rising Clash Over Drugs in Sports. Christian Science Monitor. 12 Aug. 1999: n.p. Sirs Knowledge Source Millard South High School Library, Omaha NE. 16 Nov. 2000. www.sirs.com.
- Swift, E.M. Drug Pedaling. Sports Illustrated. 5 July 1999: 60-60. SirsKnowledge Source Millard South High School Library, Omaha NE. 16 Nov. 2000. www.sirs.com.