Sports and Performance Enhancers

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Sports and performance enhancers are such a controversial debate because many opinionated users exist on both sides. Many drugs can be considered performance enhancers which are illegal; however, many performance enhancers are still legal and readily available, especially steroids. Sports and performance enhancers are abundant in the market and it’s difficult to understand exactly how many users exist because they use illegal drugs and never report it. Every competitive player has considered using sports and performance enhancers which makes it a popular topic to discuss.

Sources and forms of the drug(s)

Sports Enhancers can range from a variety of sources and levels of intensity. Athletes can be anywhere from fun, recreational to professional levels which can be monitored heavily for illegal sports enhancers. You can find pre-workouts and post-workouts and supplements at any retail store that sells food. For more serious athletes and trainers, retail stores like GNC and Vitamin World exists to target a motivated athlete looking for premium results. There are many types of sports enhancers beside the common Anabolic Steroid or amphetamines. Without giving an exhausting list, currently some common sports enhancers are Thermogenics (i.e. Caffeine), Creatine, Whey Protein, B-vitamins, and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs).

Sports enhancers often come in pill, powder, and liquid forms for fast absorption into the body.

History of the drug(s)

–      Origin or suspected origin

Enhancing athletic abilities dates back to the Ancient Greeks when Olympic champions began consuming large meat quantities atypical of normal diets of Greeks. Steroid use started when these Olympians would ingest sheep’s testicles because they knew it contained high levels of testosterone (Steroids for Sports Enhancement). Competition drives athletes to perform the best which motivates participants to try performance enhancers.

–      Early use

During Olympic games, athletes were reported using what we consider illegal today to win gold medals. They reportedly used cocaine in some of their performances. In the world of sports and how to become better, experimentation was often the route to use to stay ahead of the competition. “The use of nitroglycerine to dilate (expand) coronary arteries have been used by sprinters in the past” (Steroids for Sports Enhancement). Then athletes were intrigued by the use of steroids because of the powerful strength received compared to other supplements offered. They started using Testosterone to increase aggressiveness and physical strength (Historical Timeline – Drug Use in Sports – Pros and Cons – ProCon.org.). The evolution enhancing performance evolved to current athletes taking these enhancers to give them a competitive edge of physical fitness, aggression, and focus on the field.

Drug use/misuse (NSDUH, DAWN, etc.) in the U.S

–      Recent trends (for past 10-20 years)

From the past couple of decades, the market for sports enhancers increased just from general knowledge of health and fitness topics evolve and became more popular. General health and fitness is currently a popular trend opening up opportunities for new foods, such as organic, to take market share within stores. A better understanding of certain foods and vitamins that can cause a certain effect has support the growth for companies to supply sports supplements to increase stamina, strength, fatigue tolerance, and speed. Since the use of Steroids in the Olympic games, drug testing has taken its place in major league sports organizations and all major sport organization restricts use of these drugs. Many users use a method called “stacking” which is using multiple different types of Steroids consuming them multiple different ways (National geographic science of steroids). For instance, a user could begin by injecting steroids and then switch to pills. They believe they receive the best benefits by mixing different types of steroids together. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the use of steroids have been decreasing over the past several years for adolescents in high school (Perception vs. reality: Steroids and the people who use them).

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–      Current use based on latest survey results in the U.S.

Illegal use of these drugs is have been monitored now more than over. Most drugs athletes use today may be legal but for other reasons than to increase their performance. For instance Human Growth Hormones may be issued to someone having difficultly growing or gaining weight but athletes would take them in to increase their muscle mass. As for the Olympics, whenever an individual wins a medal, they are immediately rushed for a drug test to spot any substances in your body at that time. Side effects of using these substances can lead to rage, depression, heart conditions, and diabetes. Even common stimulants found in most pre-workouts such as caffeine, which when taken too much can cause serious health conditions to your body.

–      Pharmacology and effects

You can administer the steroids in the following manner, by taking injections, taking oral pills or getting a skin patch.

Since sports enhancers focus mainly on physical benefits, there are few physiological concerns about sports enhancers.

Steroids are known for affecting the psychological behavior of the person as well. People who have started taking steroids will suddenly notice a boost in their confidence or they may become aggressive, impulsive or suspicious of other people.

The physical side effects of taking steroids can vary from severe to mild effects, such as acne, stomach aches, liver damage, weight gain, heart attacks, renal failure and menstrual irregularities. Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant must not to take steroids as this milk will pass through placenta, enter the breast milk and harm the baby (How to Take Steroids, Taking Steroids, Ways to Take Steroids.).

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–      Causes for concern

Sports Enhancers are beneficial for their immediate, highly effective results. Areas of concerns in terms of acute toxicity derive from immediate and cycle results. For many sports enhancers, it’s highly recommended to cycle the products so the body doesn’t develop a dependency. Increased aggression is tends to be a common result that may be beneficial or concerning. Many users see increased aggression in the wrong situations which tend to cause physical harm to others. This has been a great deal of discussion called “roid rage”. Other sport enhancers increase chances of heart conditions due to increased heart rates.

Harsh conditions may result from taking sports enhancers after long-term use. Some familiar instances would be Androgenic effects of the body. These concerns are far more alerting when athletes practice “stacking” steroids or other sports enhancers. For younger adults taking steroids, steroids can cause premature closing of the of bone growth thus stunting their size. Acne and baldness have been reported with a risk of Peliosis Hepatitis. High blood pressure, breast and testes enlargement in men, decreased breast size for women, and fluid retention are other chronic concerns associated with steroids and other sports enhancers. For creatine, if not cycled correctly, you’re body doesn’t naturally produce similar products within the body.

Research study at the University of Southern California may have evidence of the addition of steroids. The biggest dependence of sports enhancers and more specifically, steroids, is the desire for physical appearance or athletic performance. Athletes strive to become the best and desire any drug or supplement that will help them achieve these goals. Ruth Woods, PhD, Professor of Cell and Neurobiology at USC stated that “Most people use anabolic steroids to enhance their physical performance, but they deny that steroids may be addictive,” (Anabolic Steroids May Be Addictive, Study Finds). The study was based on hamsters, within a controlled environment, making decisions to choose the steroids if approaching a certain “curtain”. The study didn’t prove addition but may lead to a case of steroid addiction. Users often feel better on the drug than off which makes them dependent by choice, not because they are physically dependent.

There are many concerns regarding social pressure from teammates and coaches trying to get players to take performance enhancers. These issues are concerning because the organizations don’t encourage these drugs and may ban use.

–      Current beneficial uses (if any)

Sport enhancers are marketed for their beneficial results by achieving new athletic performance. Their main attraction is the increase muscle mass, increase energy, and physical fitness. These enhancers will help you reach new fitness goals and targets. These levels are appealing to professional teams looking for players who desire to make careers out of sports and fitness. Many professional teams pay their players very well which is ideal for many players to reach those athletic levels so they can get paid handsomely.

–      Overall health impact assessment

Sports enhancers are beneficial for training and achieving new athletic targets. The frequency of use is very important for sports enhancers because they should be cycled where you take it for a period of time and then refrain from continuous use for a period.  Steroids are beneficial and legal only when authorized to use by a physician or doctor. The initial start of substance abuse would lead to a negative health impact and leads to very risky health conditions. Health and performance tend to lead to healthier lifestyles which should be highly encouraged but at the risk of heart conditions and other chronic toxicities, should be avoided. Although these drugs may not be additive like others, the personal desire to look and perform well is the biggest addition and motivation to use them. Under controlled substance use, these have a positive health impact.

–      Personal drug use

Sports Enhancers can be used for casual weight training and cross training exercises. Participants may be training during the off season or take a personal interest in physical fitness and make it a hobby. I personally know users of sports enhancers such as testosterone boosters, thermogenic products , creatine, and whey protein. These products are typically taken daily and usually vary from consuming in the morning before breakfast or before, during, or after workouts. These products have long been criticized for their effectiveness and taste. These products are marketed towards active athletes and serious “gym rats” that promise to take your training and workout to a new level. Side effects very tremendously and taken within a certain limit as suggested on the bottle, users typically won’t experience any negative side effects. Most pre-workouts that contain massive amounts of caffeine and vitamins will make the skin feel prickly if taken in excess amounts.

–      Recommendations made by trustworthy organizations pertaining to the drug

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Most sports enhancers are not illegal and can be bought at many retailers. Steroids are common drugs to use to increase physical fitness by increasing the hormone level to the user. Steroids should only be used by recommendations or prescriptions by a doctor. To avoid substance abuse, trainers and coaches should issue drug testing and education. The problem with drug testing is it hasn’t proved that it prevents steroid abuse; however, issuing randomized drug tests and offering well-programmed education keeps the substance off the field (National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids). Recreational training is harder to monitor because there’s no governing authority to prevent use. The other issue recreational users would face are the drug screenings required by employment and teams.

Some of the best practices to support players on steroids is a common understanding and agreement of use from the team. If the team doesn’t approve the use, individuals of the team will tend to stay away. According to article from the National Institutes of Health, an education program call ATLAS seems to be an effective program to assist students during their training and to stay away from the use of steroids. The study focused on behaviors and steroid use and found that “Compared to student athletes who were not exposed to the ATLAS program, ATLAS participants had increased understanding of the effects of steroids, greater belief in personal vulnerability to the consequences of steroid use, improved drug refusal skills, less belief in steroid-promoting media messages, increased belief in the team as an information source, improved perception of athletic abilities and strength training self-efficacy, improved nutrition and exercise behaviors and reduced intentions to use steroids” (NIH Press Release). The study was based on over 1500 players from over 30 different high schools. If peers of the players don’t support the use of these drugs, then people tend not to consume them. Education programs are effective to positively influence behavior of players and teams and help prevent steroid use.

–      Relevant regulations and laws

The law against steroid use are enacted by the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990 that states that “any drug or hormonal substance chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids) that promotes muscle growth” (Steroid Abuse by Law Enforcement Personnel).

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, “The possession or sale of anabolic steroids without a valid prescription is illegal. Simple possession of illicitly obtained anabolic steroids carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a minimum $1,000 fine if this is an individual’s first drug offense. The maximum penalty for trafficking is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if this is the individual’s first felony drug offense. If this is the second felony drug offense, the maximum period of imprisonment and the maximum fine both double. While the above listed penalties are for federal offenses, individual states have also implemented fines and penalties for illegal use of anabolic steroids” (Steroid Abuse by Law Enforcement Personnel). The penalties are severe and laws are placed to regulate the amount of steroid use and limit it to prescriptions by an authorized doctor.

–      Recommended action

My recommendations for sports enhancers are simple, although they are effective during workouts, limit the use of them and take them in cycles. Use the drug for a month and then take a break for month. Sports enhancers should be treated like a boost and they don’t become boost when taken in long durations. The body becomes dependent and can develop chronic problems that have harmful effects on the body. For instance, the body can naturally make creatine and when on creatine supplements, the body stops producing it. When you cycle sports enhancers like creatine, you give your body time to recover and it helps prevent substance abuse. Personally, I don’t think people really need any of the sports supplements out there. Yes they can be beneficial but the only way to get fit is not by taking these supplements, but by doing the exercises and eating healthy. Pre-workouts may help you from not having the energy to workout but should only be taken within limitations and periodically.

As for steroids, avoid the use because the benefits are not worth the potential damage and costs. Steroids should only be taken by recommendation and a prescription by a doctor for medicinal purposes. Otherwise consumers are risking too much by getting caught and developing chronic diseases from abuse.

To find more information about sport enhancers, please click on this link. National geographic has a great video that explains many concerns about using sport enhancers, mainly anabolic steroids.

–      List of references

Anabolic Steroids May Be Addictive, Study Finds. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://alcoholism.about.com/od/steroids/a/steroids_addict.htm

Historical Timeline – Drug Use in Sports – Pros and Cons – ProCon.org. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://sportsanddrugs.procon.org/view.timeline.php?timelineID=000017

How to Take Steroids, Taking Steroids, Ways to Take Steroids. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://www.howany.com/how-to-take-steroids

National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://www.nata.org/sites/default/files/position-statement-steroids.pdf

National geographic science of steroids. (2011, November 23). YouTube. Retrieved June 29, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUTvaU5fXO4

NIH Press Release – New Drug Prevention Program Helps Student Athletes Avoid Steroids Use – 11/19/96. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2014, from http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/nov96/nida-19.htm

Perception vs. reality: Steroids and the people who use them. (2014, June 28). Perception vs. reality: Steroids and the people who use them. Retrieved June 29, 2014, from http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=222803

Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports Fast Facts – CNN.com. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/06/us/performance-enhancing-drugs-in-sports-fast-facts/index.html

Sports & Drug Abuse | LIVESTRONG.COM. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/275603-sports-drug-abuse/

Steroid Abuse – Steroid Abuse by Law Enforcement Personnel. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2014, from http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubs/brochures/steroids/lawenforcement

Steroids for Sports Enhancement. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.steroids.org/Steroids-for-Sports-Enhancement.php