The most commonly used steroid in sports is anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are synthetically created to function like male hormones. Athletes use it to increase their strength and performance beyond their natural means. Anabolic steroids increase the amount of testosterone in the body. The increase of testosterone promotes muscle and bone growth in the body.i Anabolic steroids also make it so an athlete can workout for longer periods of time than they naturally can.
Anabolic steroids also can have effects that are not advantageous to an athlete. Excessive use of anabolic steroids can result in causing some of the excess testosterone to convert into estrogen, causing a reduction in sexual function, temporary infertility, and the development of breasts in males. Athletes take other drugs to stop the conversion of testosterone to estrogen.ii Anabolic steroids can also cause growth in the left ventricle. An increase of cardiovascular exercise can counteract the growth in the left ventricle. Use of anabolic steroids can also cause an increase in blood pressure in both males and females due to the decrease of HDL and the increase of LDL.
The use of anabolic steroids gives an athlete an edge in their competition. The edge the athlete gain does come with some risk. An athlete puts their health at risk to gain this advantage. Incorrectly taking anabolic steroids can take the life of an athlete.
Blood doping usually refers to three forms of blood transfusions. The first form of blood doping is called homologous transfusions.iii Homologous transfusions are when blood is donated and they take the red blood cells and concentrate and freeze them for a later transfusion when the athlete is going to start an event. The other form of blood doping is autologous. Autologous transfusions are when an athlete takes out their red blood cells out of their body before a competition and transfuse them back in their body right before the competition.iv The other form of blood doping is done through the injection of a hormone called erythropoietin.v Erythropoietin increases the production of red blood cells in the blood stream. All of these forms of blood doping are used to increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. Blood Doping is mainly used in endurance sports such as cycling and cross-country skiing because the extra oxygen carrying capacity gives to the blood through blood doping gives the athlete more endurance.
Blood doping does have dangerous aspects to it. During a blood transfusion you run the risk of getting a severe infection.vi After an autologous transfusion, an athlete can becomes anemic due to the lack of red blood cells in their blood.vii Erythropoietin injection is the more dangerous form of blood doping. Erythropoietin injections can create too many red blood cells, which make the blood thicker and the thicker blood strains the heart. The strain on the heart can cause an athlete to die while they sleep due to the slow in heart rate while sleeping.viii
League Policies on Cyborgs in Sports
Major sports leagues have run into these athletic enhancements being used in their sports. Some leagues have dealt with enhancements by banning them to keep the way the game is played the same, but leagues have adopted some of the enhancements and made them standard.
Major League Baseball has been in the media mostly for the amount of steroid use in their league. In 2003, many major league baseball players were linked to BALCO, a company on trial for producing steroids. Such players as Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa were called in to be asked about their steroid use. All the players either dodged the questions or denied their use of illegal steroids. After denying use of steroids in the trial, Rafael Palmeiro tested positive to steroids in one of the MLB random steroid tests. After the trial and Palmeiro’s positive test, most fans were conspicuous if all the modern day baseball players were using steroids like the players that were on trial. In 2005, the MLB decided to react to this by making a harsher penalty for players who use steroids.ix The first positive test for steroids results in a 50 game suspension, the second would result in 100 game suspension, and a third positive test would result in a lifetime ban from the MLB. The MLB hasn’t frowned upon all forms of enhancements in humans. Tommy John surgery has become a normal procedure for pitchers who are having problem with torn elbow ligaments.x Before Tommy John surgery was successfully performed, damage to the elbow ligaments would end the career of a pitcher.
The National Football League has had its own share of problems with steroid use within its league. The NFL has have had a policy against steroid use since 1987. Their modern day policy was adopted in 1989. The first positive test for steroids results in a 4 game suspension, the second would result in 8 game suspension, and a third positive test would result in a one year suspension.xi In 2006, Shawne Merriman, a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, tested positive for steroids in a random test.xii Currently the NFL only uses urine tests, which doesn’t detect the use of human growth hormone. Even though he tested positive Merriman was still selected to play in the Pro Bowl. After the 2006 season, the NFL decided on a policy that players who test positive for steroids would be ineligible for the Pro Bowl in the same season.xiii
The International Cycling Union has had to deal with blood doping and steroid use in their races. Usually any proof of use of an athletic enhancer will result in the cyclist being stripped of their medal. The UCI uses urine tests to detect if the cyclist has an enhanced amount of testosterone in their body. Blood doping is much harder for UCI to test for. The UCI usually searches a cyclist house for any proof of blood doping such as erythropoietin. After winning the Tour De France in 2006, Floyd Landis’ urine test came back with a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio of 11 to 1, which exceeds the maximum legal ratio of 4 to 1. A ratio that large is evidence of steroid use. Landis has not been stripped of the medal due to questions about how valid the positive test is, but he is not recognized as the winner of the race.xiv
With the vast amount of sports included in the Olympics the International Olympic Committee has to deal with different forms of athletic enhancers. The IOC formed the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999 prior to the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney to combat the use of performance enhancers in Olympic events. WADA was used to standardize the rules about banned substances in different sports and different countries.xv In 2004 prior to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, WADA created World Anti-Doping Code to help standardize the doping policies. Since the formation of WADA positive test have decreased. In the 2006 Winter Olympics, only one athlete was stripped of their medal due to a positive test for an illegal performance enhancer.xvi
These leagues have decided that these performance enhancers should not be allowed in their sports. The side effects on an athlete’s health were not worth the enhancements to the athletes in their sport. Most leagues also wanted to keep it so the game is played the same way it was played years ago. Leagues want to make sure that all the athletes are on an even playing ground.
i NIDA. NIDA Research Report Series - Anabolic Steroid Abuse. 30 May 2007
Copyright © 2007 Andrew Cichowski, All Rights Reserved.