10 December 2000
Performance Enhancing Drugs
When most people think of performance-enhancing drugs the first thought that comes to their minds is the illegal ones like steroids, but today there are more non-illegal drugs like creatine and androstenedione for people today. Creatine is a chemical produced by the kidney and found in meat product. It helps muscles recover after a workout, which in turn helps athletes bulk up faster (Gregorian 5). Creatine is used by many of the nations top college sports teams like Nebraska and Northwestern. The Husker Power strength program uses creatine, where it is meticulously measured and poured to the contours of the designated athlete (Gregorian 1). It is also slurped and scarified down by 25% if of pro baseball, basketball and hockey players and 50% o the NFL players also (Gregorian 1). Androstenedione, also known as andro, is a synthetic chemical that is changed into testosterone by the kidney (Scruff 1), and while it is currently legal it is on the road to becoming illegal. It has fulfilled two of the three requirements for being a steroid and tests are being done about the third, and if passes the third one it will be considered a steroid and become illegal. It has also been banned in professional tennis, the Olympics and the NFL (Regan 2). In addition, there are also the illegal ones such as steroids. Also a little known one by most of the public is a drug called, erythopoietin commonly referred to as EPO. EPO stimulates the bodys production of red blood cells which caries oxygen to muscles and all other parts of the body (Swift 2). Another one is growth hormones, which help muscles recover faster after a workout (Swift 2). A drug guru for some of the worlds top cyclists who had a forced retirement said that, in the 70s the most commonly used drugs were amphetamines; in the 80s, anabolic steroids and cortisone; and in the 90s, growth hormones and EPO (Swift 12). One sad thing about todays athletes is that in 1995, 198 athletes were surveyed. In the survey they were asked if they were offered a banned performance enhancer with the guarantee that that they wouldnt be caught, and they would win. Of the 198 surveyed 195 said yes and only 3-said no. Then the same people were asked the same question but they would also win every competition for five years, where after which they would die from the side effects. Still over half of the people surveyed still said yes (Bamburger 1). It has also been said that there are three levels of athletes: a small group of athletes who dont take any enhancers, a large group of people who take drugs that arent tested for, or take them in levels that will pass the tests, and the third group has a smattering of athletes who take drugs and get caught (Bamburger 3). So performance-enhancing drugs should not be used because they give the person using them an unfair advantage, has a high monetary cost to keep getting the drugs, and has many negative side effects.
Not everyone believes that performance-enhancing drugs should be banned. NU football players Jay Tant and Dwayne Missouri both put on about 30 pounds of muscle during their careers due to creatine and countless hours in the weight room (Carlton 1). Creatine helps weightlifters and runners squeeze in an extra rep or stair climbs. It translates into an average gain of 20- 30 pounds o of muscle in just a few months (Schrof 2). That is the good side of the enhancers.
While supporters of performance enhancing drugs have many valid arguments, better evidence supports that they should not be used. The first argument is the person using them has an unfair advantage. Columnist Michael Bamburger for Sports Illustrated wrote that athletes seem to rely more then ever on banned performance enhancers (1). Then just talent, and pure blood, sweat, and tears. Mark Asanovich the strength and conditioning coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers discourages the use of any performance enhancers and says, We want to teach independence- not dependence (Gregorian 2). In an interview with a drug dealer he said that athletes tell him that they dont want to spend two years away from their family training, and missing their college education so they can me cheated out of a medal by someone who is on drugs (Bamburger 3). Even athletes who take the drugs say they wouldnt if there was no one else taking drugs so that it would be a fair competition. Also EPO gives the athlete an unfair advantage by stimulating the body to produce more red blood cells to that their muscles get more oxygen and they can continue to work at a higher level for a longer time with minimal fatigue because of the elevated red blood cell count (Bamburger 5).
The second argument against performance enhancing drugs is the monetary cost. For example a month supply of creatine can cost a person anywhere between $40-70 (Gregorian 3). Thats for a drug that they arent sure it the weight put on is from water retention or muscle mass (Gregorian 2). Then if a person wants to take androstenedione it will cost them approximately $50-90 for a month supply of the drug (Schrof 1). The illegal performance enhancers cost even more then the legal performance enhancers for example human growth hormones cost approximately $1500 per month to take (Bamburger 5). The only person that this doesnt cost is the dealer. A dealer can get one kilogram of pure testosterone wholesale for about $500. Then he can mix it with some calcium to make into tablets and turn around and sell it for $100,000 to the athletes (Bamburger 5). Dan Ellis the performance and nutrition coordinator for the University of Nebraska says, We really believe that creatine requires management (Gregorian 1) and to get someone who really knows what they are doing also costs a lot of money. Some doctors and sports trainers say that all supplements give you is expensive urine (Supplements 1).
Another type of monetary cost is if you get caught taking the drugs or get caught with them, you will loose money from fines, jail time, rehab, endorsement losses, and possibly even your job. One reason the International Olympic Committee doesnt do blood tests where they could test for more drugs is because it they would do that more people would be exposed for using drugs and they are afraid what the public would do when they found out. Especially when most of their money comes from sponsors. Exposing star athletes would create enough publicity to send sponsors packing and disillusion the public (Bamburger 6). Dr. Donald Catlin director of the IOC testing says, Sophisticated athletes who want to take drugs have switched to things we cant test for (Bamburger 2). But if they did do blood testing they could test for these things. Even if you are just caught with the drugs you can get in a lot of trouble. A drug guru for one of the worlds top cycling teams was caught with 324 doses of EPO, 211 vials of growth hormones and testosterone, and 60 pills of asaflov, a blood thinner. He was on his way to one of the teams cycling competitions in Europe. He was then sentenced to up to 5 years in prison for illegal trafficking of performance enhancing drugs, and kicked out of professional cycling for 10 years (Swift 1).
The third argument against performance enhancing drugs is the negative physical side effects from taking the drugs. In Kansas City 15 high school football players took rapid furl capsules during one of their games to gain and edge over their opponents. One of the kids ended up passing out after the game because he took four pills. If used incorrectly rapid fuel could cause a cardiac arrhythmia and cause the person to die. Because of this possibility the IOC and the NCAA have banned the use of rapid fuel (Ivan 1,2). Andro on the other hand has similar side effects as synthetic steroids. Some of the mild side effects include; acne, fits of rage, baldness, men developing breasts, and stunted growth. Then some of the major effects include; sterility, liver disease, cancer, and heart problems. Because of these side effects GNC stores have banned androstenedione for sale in their stores (Schrof 2). Then some of the side effects for creatine include cramping, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and muscle pulls, and strains (Gregorian 3). Studies that have been done on creatine also show muscle swelling in rats that were given creatine, and if it happened to major muscle groups doctors are worried about what it does to the heart (Carlton 1). The Northwestern University football team believes that creatine is the cause for a rash of hamstring pulls (Carlton 2). The FDA remains unsettled about creatine because there are no recognized studies that show it is safe, and there is an absence of long-term studies (Gregorian 2,3). Even Allen Kaiehans a University of Oklahoma Med Center researcher wont let his son take creatine because of safety and purity concerns (Gregorian 2).
In conclusion Performance enhancing drugs should not be used because they are bad for the body, are expensive, and the person using them has an unfair advantage. And if people dont stop taking them then sports wont be fun to watch anymore because there would be no real battle its just who takes the better drugs instead of which the better team is.
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