Steroids prescribed by healthcare providers are often times used for medical purpose, and to alter or treat disease. Medical issues such as, hormonal delay (delayed puberty), muscle loss that is caused by cancer and AIDS undergo treatment with anabolic steroids (anabolic-androgenic steroids). These steroids “are synthetically derived to increase muscle mass while at the same time minimizing the masculinizing, or androgenic, effect” (Cox, 2012, pg. 465). Once these drugs were discovered for much more than medical treatment use, athletes began abusing anabolic steroids to boost their athletic performance and their physical appearance. Anabolic steroids can be ingested orally or injected through a needle. Other steroids such as birth control (for medical use) can be applied as a “cream, gel, or patch” (National Abuse of Drug Use, 2016, para. 3).
Lyle Alzado was known as one of the fiercest lineman to have ever played football. During his career, Alzado played for the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, and the Oakland Raiders. Having a very successful record in the NFL (National Football League), Alzado had no idea of how badly he was harming his body and health during the process. In the late 1960’s, Alzado started injecting anabolic steroids, and from this point forward, he never stopped. That was until years later, he was diagnosed with brain lymphoma (cancer), and quickly blamed the repetitive use of steroids to be the cause (Cox, 2012). Alzado was known to be one of the first (of many) professional athletes to admit to taking illegal substances during his career. "All the time I was taking steroids, I knew they were making me play better. But I became very violent on the field and off it. I did things only crazy people do. Once a guy sideswiped my car and I beat the hell out of him” (Dorfman, 2013, para. 10). After years of denying his use of steroids, Alzado finally came clean when he did a story for “Sports Illustrated in July 1991, three months after being diagnosed with brain cancer” (Puma, n.d., para. 9). Less than a year later, Alzado was pronounced dead.
Consequences to Anabolic Steroid Use
Often times, professional athletes and individuals who are large fans of bodybuilding will disagree that steroids can have serious consequences, and are quick to point health complications towards another direction. When medical professionals subscribe any form of steroid to a patient, it is typically a very low dosage. When steroids are abused for factors other than health related issues, steroids are injected 10-100% higher than recommended doses prescribed to treat medical conditions (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2016). Case reports of deaths due to steroid use have been low, but the serious side effects may be unrecognized, due to the effect taking place years later. “One study found that exposing male mice for one-fifth of their lifespan to steroid doses comparable to those taken by human athletes caused a high frequency of early deaths” (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2006, para. 2). The hormonal system, musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system, liver, and skin are all areas that can be negatively impacted by the use of anabolic steroids (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2006).
Cancer survivor and former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong was a world known cyclist who started early in his career, breaking several records, and was stripped of his medals in 2012 due to evidence of using performance-enhancement drugs. Armstrong had a very successful career until people in the industry recognized his behavior change in the sport. Despite Armstrong's fight over cancer, he had several people convinced that he was under no use of illegal substances while participating in his sport. The USADA (US-Anti Doping Agency) announced that “Armstrong would be stripped of his seven Tour titles—as well as other honors he received from 1999 to 2005—and banned from cycling for life” (Bio, 2016, para. 5). During Armstrong entire professional career, he had been taking hormones cortisone, testosterone, and erythropoietin (EPO). With this he conducted blood transfusions to increase his oxygen intake.
Implications and Conclusion
It is safe to say that steroids (of all kind) have their short-lived benefits, but also have serious repercussions. These side effects can cause a professional athlete to lose their career, have all their success stripped away from them, and may even cost their life. Regardless of the amount of research behind steroid use, it is evident that using at high percentages can lead towards future health complications and possibly death. Whether injecting or orally taking a steroid, to injecting one’s own blood, or transfused blood from a donor, all methods are illegal and have been for years. While it may seem logical to take anabolic steroids for bodybuilders and other professional athletes to help build strength and muscle mass, it is more important to question if it is worth it in the end.
Biography.com. (2016, April 15). Lance Armstrong Biography: Drug Controversy. Retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/lance-armstrong-9188901#drug-controversy
Cox, R. (2012). Sport psychology: Concepts and applications (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Dorfman, S. (2013, August 13). Lyle Alzado remains the reminder that steroid users cheating selves. Retrieved from http://www.nj.com/sports/ledger/dorfman/index.ssf/2013/08/lyle_alzado_a_reminder_that_st.html
National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2016, April 15). What are anabolic steroids? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/anabolic-steroids
National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2006, August). What are the health consequences of steroid abuse? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/anabolic-steroid-abuse/what-are-health-consequences-steroid-abuse