Performance enhancing drugs (P.E.D.) are becoming more and more common each year with athletes across the globe. Steroids are drugs meant for athletes trying to improve their physical appearance, ability, and ability to recover from a workout. Steroids produce extra testosterone into your body which creates more muscle and more blood flow. Although testosterone is mainly in men, women have some in them so steroids can be used for both genders. Many people use these drugs as they think they can get away with it, but many athletes get caught. Most sports have a ban on P.E.D.'s because it makes the competition unfair. In addition, some athletes believe it is fair and that it should not be against the rules. It is not fair because a sport is a competition of the natural body, not a body on a drug to enhance the performance. The current punishments set forth by high-level sports leagues are not strict enough and the methods of detecting P.E.D usage are not advanced enough to regulate substance abuse in the future.
Although people are caught doping or using P.E.D.'s, people may still wonder what doping is and how it enhances performance. Doping is when one adds drugs to their normal state for a enhanced athletic or muscular performance.There are multiple types of P.E.D's, all of which have different effects on the body. It has been acknowledged that, Some athletes take a form of steroids ” known as anabolic-androgen steroids or just anabolic steroids ” to increase their muscle mass and strength. The main anabolic steroid hormone produced by your body is testosterone (Doping). These performance enhancers can be injected through a shot, taken as a pill, or simply consumed as a form of pure testosterone. The usage of these drugs has increased over time, as evidenced by many accusations and actions taken against alleged P.E.D users in recent years. One example of an alleged performance enhancement user is Sir Mo Farah, who, In 2014, won four long-distance titles as a runner and took an unrecorded amount of L-carnitine, which is only legal in small substances (Faster, Stronger Higher 1). Doping has had an effect on the level of play in sports, both professional and unprofessional, for many years now and may be a lingering issue for years to come.
Although many of these athletes have much potential, the serious negative effects of doping raise an important question: why do these athletes choose to dope despite these drastic negative effects? The primary reason for doping is that most professional and college athletes find adding overall mass and strength to be advantageous because most sports require some physical competition. According to Leo Uzych, a journalist who studies P.E.D usage and effects, The supposed advantage of steroids is that they improve athletic performance and result in increased strength, size and body mass (25). This advantage is even more prominent for those who plan on making a living off of their athletic careers. According to authors from Doping: Do You Know the Facts about Performance-Enhancing Drugs:
Most serious athletes will tell you that the competitive drive to win can be fierce. Besides the satisfaction of personal accomplishment, athletes often pursue dreams of winning a medal for their country or securing a spot on a professional team. In such an environment, the use of performance-enhancing drugs has become increasingly common.
It should also be noted that many talented athletes came from environments that were not favorable for a successful future without taking the path of becoming a successful athlete. An example of this is in the Major League Baseball (MLB), in which there are many athletes who have immigrated over from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Many of these athletes come from unfavorable living conditions and would be left with nothing if their professional dreams were lost. In this case and in many others, it can be recognizable why a talented athlete would take P.E.D's despite their drastic negative effects.
To understand the negative effects of doping on the body, the various types of P.E.D's must first be analyzed. The most prominent and common type of performance enhancer in big-name athletes is called: designer steroids. Mayo Clinic refers to this type of drug as, A particularly dangerous class of anabolic steroids are the so-called designer drugs ” synthetic steroids that have been illicitly created to be undetectable by current drug tests. They are made specifically for athletes and have no approved medical use(Doping). The fact that these drugs have not been approved for any medical use can imply that for now, this category of drugs can be considered a pure form of performance enhancement. Designer steroids are considered to be a class of anabolic steroids because they add a synthetic form of testosterone to your system, which can aid the ability of the human muscles to reform after a workout. Another common form of doping which is common in the sports world today is called blood doping. Blood doping is the practice of misusing certain techniques and substances to increase the red blood cell mass in the body (Effects of Performance-Enhancing Drugs). The athletic advantage to this technique is that when there is a larger red cell mass in the body, more oxygen can be carried to the muscles at any given time. More oxygen in the muscles can make muscle recovery rapid and can enhance endurance over time. Although there are many types and forms of doping, the intent of the user and the general long-term negative effects remain constant.
The main cause for concern with P.E.D's, along with the issue of an uneven playing field, is that they have many long-term negative effects on the body. In many cases, athletes take these drugs in much higher doses than would be prescribed by a doctor. It is evident that the intent of the athlete is to enhance their performance at a greater level, even with the understanding that the long-term effects could be worse on their body. According to writers from Mayo Clinic, some of the potential side effects of doping include: liver abnormalities or tumors, high blood pressure, drug dependence, and many more (Doping). These are some of the serious effects that many addictive and illegal drugs have on the body. These effects show that just like taking any drug other than what is prescribed can have some terrible long-term impacts. However, some of the long-term effects of doping cannot be determined through experimentation. It is impossible for researchers to design studies that would accurately test the effects of large doses of steroids on athletes, because giving participants such high doses would be unethical. This means that the effects of taking anabolic steroids at very high doses haven't been well-studied (Doping). With doping being a relatively recent occurence in the sports world, it is difficult to truly determine the long-term effects of it without analyzing any experimental evidence. There are, however, a few cases of doping from which the impacts have been examined. Russian athletes who took banned substances:
Suffered a host of serious problems later on in life. They were more likely to commit suicide, or to miscarry or have a disabled child. No one knows what risks these new designer versions are running. Blood-doping can cause heart-attacks; more than a dozen cyclists' deaths have been linked to it. Some unscrupulous coaches dope promising teenagers, before they are ever subjected to testing (Dope on the Slopes).
The fact that young athletes in other countries are subject to these drugs, and even administered performance enhancers by their coaches, shows that this is not only an issue that pertains to professional sports in the United States of America. With a minimal understanding of all risks that are brought along with doping, it can be difficult to convince the sports world, players and coaches included, that the negatives of doping outweigh the positives.
With doping becoming more prominent in professional and college sports around the globe, many argue whether or not this practice should be considered unfair. As soon as sports began, athletes who battle on the playing field for both their team and their quality of life have been searching for ways to find any competitive advantage. For example, if an athlete has a bad knee, they may get knee surgery to make sure that this issue does not linger for the rest of their career. Another simple example of this is when athletes drink protein shakes or recovery drinks after their workout. Extra protein has proven to increase muscle gain after a workout, and many athletes take this path to improve their overall strength increase. Advil and other painkillers are often taken after a workout or other physical activity to help relieve the pain and aid overall recovery. It can be argued that P.E.D's are similar in that they are a way for athletes to better their strength and overall abilities. Professional athletes pay a high price for their pursuit of excellence and glory. Training to the limit tears muscles and wears out joints. Gymnasts often need hip replacements when barely into middle age (Dope on the Slopes).
General training itself can have long-term negative effects on athletes, just like with the case of doping. This raises the question of if doping is actually an unfair advantage, or if it is just a way for athletes to gain an advantage in a more modern way. The usage of P.E.D's in sports is in fact unfair because these drugs have been banned by most professional and unprofessional sports leagues, and are a synthetic way of enhancing the ability of the human body. As stated by the writers from Mayo Clinic, Taking anabolic-androgenic steroids to enhance athletic performance, besides being prohibited by most sports organizations, is illegal. In the past 20 years, more effective law enforcement in the United States has pushed much of the illegal steroid industry into the black market (Doping). Steroids bring a plethora of safety issues to the table, and permitting their usage in any sports environment will reward the players who do not have regard for their future health or for the integrity of the game. Other methods of enhancing recovery and strength, such as painkillers and large intakes of protein, are legal and do not have the same detrimental long-term effects on the body that doping does. Performance enhancing drugs are unfair in any sporting environment because they take away from the integrity of the game and are a disadvantage to athletes who are not willing to put their health at risk for their sports career.
Currently, most sports leagues prohibit the act of doping and there are some penalties that come along with those who take that path. Taking performance enhancers can also ruin an athlete's reputation as a fair and honest player. The consequences of doping could spell the end of your sporting career, your reputation and your future prospects both in and out of sports (The Consequences of Doping). Many sports fans find doping to be unfair and unethical, so many professional athletes who have been caught have had their support from the fans decrease as a result. One example of this is Alex Rodriguez, who played professional baseball for the New York Yankees. After being suspended for 211 games by Major League Baseball, Alex Rodriguez was then criticized by many of his past supporters and his inductance into the Hall of Fame is now in question. There are also currently some leagues that will suspend athletes for up to four years, disqualify athletes for certain events, and will hand out financial penalties for those who are caught breaking their substance abuse policies (Consequences of Doping). Although Alex Rodriguez's suspension was lengthy and other leagues have strict policies in place, some still question if these consequences are enough of a punishment for those who put the overall integrity and fairness of sports at risk.
In order for integrity and a fair playing field to be maintained in high-level sports leagues, stronger policies against substance abuse need to be in place. The current punishments in place by most leagues are not strict enough to limit the amount of abuse in the future, as evidenced by many athletes still doping in sports today. In order for a stricter policy to be effective, it is evident that the system for catching athletes who take P.E.D's must also become more advanced and accurate. It took many years for Alex Rodriguez to be caught, as he admits to having taken steroids in the early 2000's, despite getting suspended much later on in his professional career. When players can get away with doping for long periods of time, strict policies cannot be enforced properly with such a delay. The World Anti-Doping Agency needs more money, and to be independent of the sports officials who currently call the shots (Dope on the Slopes). If more money in sports could be put towards advancing current methods of finding those who take P.E.D's, the policies in place would be more effective and would do better at deterring athletes from doping. In addition, the policies themselves should become much more strict. First time offenders need to be expelled from playing professional sports if they have been caught with substance abuse.
Many athletes dope as a way to ensure their job security as a professional athlete by increasing their strength, so if they could be expelled for it on a consistent basis in the near future, these athletes would be much less likely to take P.E.D's in the first place. As acknowledged by Josh Peter from USA TODAY, There is still too much to gain in the form of lucrative contracts and fame and not enough to lose to keep athletes from doping. More advanced technology and more strict policies need to write the future narrative of doping in sports, and need to make a statement that the negative effects of doping outweigh the positives. Although it is likely that some athletes will still take the risk, it is important that the amount of athletes who take performance enhancers decrease as opposed to increase at the current rate. This can only be achieved by changing the policies and methods currently in place, which have not been effective enough.
Doping is unfair, unethical, and illegal yet it still has a large impact on professional sports today. Long-term negative effects of steroids are evident but there have been not been many experiments to analyze all effects. Athletes who compete not only for a team but for a way to support their family are willing in many cases to put their future health at risk to increase their strength and potential as an athlete. There are various types of doping, all of which have their own individual long-term negative effects on the body. Some effects of doping such as liver abnormalities and high blood pressure can be found in other illegal drugs, making P.E.D's similar in nature. Current policies against the usage of P.E.D's are strong, but not strong enough, and the methods of determining who has performed the act of doping are not sufficient. More money needs to be spent on research towards detecting doping and policymakers in all professional and high-level sports leagues need to take this issue much more seriously for the integrity and fairness of the game.
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