Anabolic steroids are not as popular among professional athletes as they once were, but there are still plenty of reports of steroids in sports. Steroids can help athletes tremendously, but athletes who use them – especially in professional sports leagues – can be banned from playing or even face legal consequences. Here’s everything you need to know about steroids in sport today.
Why the Ban on Steroids in Sport?
Anabolic steroids were common among athletes worldwide until the 1960s, when the Olympic Games Committee and many professional sports leagues banned their use. Though this came as quite the shock to people who had used them for years to gain size, strength, and power, there was actually a very good reason for that ban. Simply put, anabolic steroids made the games “unfair” for those who could not obtain steroids or who could not use them due to underlying medical conditions. The athletes who could tolerate high doses of steroids would always outperform those who could not, so the games went from a measure of skill against skill to a measure of who could take the most steroids.
To put things back to normal and ensure that sports competitions were true measures of ability, anabolic steroids were slowly banned from every professional event starting in the late 1960s. Today, anabolic steroids remain banned in every major league sport in the US, Canada, and other parts of the world. In fact, even FIFA screens players from countries around the world at random, or when there is reason to believe that these players may be doping, and they have a perfect record when it comes to keeping steroid users off the field. The last time a player tested positive during the World Cup was in 1994 when Diego Maradona had ephedrine in his bloodstream.
Why Do Athletes Use Steroids in Sports?
No matter what sport you watch or play, it’s all about the competition. Events like the World Series, Super Bowl, Olympic Games, and even the NBA Finals draw excitement from around the world. Those who take part in the games – and especially those who win – take home more than just fame. Often, these individuals are millionaires many times over, so the drive to succeed is very strong. Steroids in sports are popular for that very reason; they are renowned performance enhancers that can give individuals incredible size, superhuman strength, and the ability to outwit, outrun, and outperform the competition.
Anabolic steroids offer many benefits in sports. For starters, they improve the process of protein synthesis, which allows athletes to build more muscle tissue in shorter periods. More muscle means more strength, and that’s important in competitive sports. Steroids in sport can also boost nitrogen retention, which improves an athlete’s stamina and allows him or her to recover from workouts, events, and even injuries more quickly than his or her counterparts.
Famous Examples of Steroid Use in Professional Sports
Even though most professional sports leagues banned the use of anabolic steroids in sport between 1960 and 1980, athletes will sometimes break the rules to be the very best. The chart below shows some of the most famous examples of steroid use in sports covered by mainstream media.
As you can see, even though anabolic steroids in sports have been illegal for some time, players still use them, and a few even get away with it. Most leagues test players only randomly or when there is reason to believe that a player is doping, but theories abound that some of the most prominent athletes can “buy” their way around steroid testing. It’s merely speculation, but for some, it’s hard to believe that a great like Mark McGwire could use steroids in sport through a decade of his career without being caught.
What are the Most Common Steroids in Sports?
Of all the anabolic steroids available on today’s underground market, there are two that repeatedly find their way into the media associated with professional athletes – stanozolol and testosterone. Jose Canseco, for example, failed a steroid screen when he tested positive for unnaturally high levels of testosterone. He presented a prescription from a doctor for testosterone gel, and he claimed it was the only testosterone he used. Though Canseco later admitted to using anabolic steroids regularly, and even wrote a book about it called Juiced, he managed to convince the nation that he only used testosterone according to his doctor’s orders.
Ben Johnson, on the other hand, who was once a well-loved Canadian sprinter, tested positive for Stanozolol, or Winstrol, after he won an Olympic Gold medal in 1988. As a result, Johnson was banned from participating in any future games, and he was forced to return his gold medal and give up his coveted title. Many wonder whether Johnson would have been the Olympic gold medalist he was without the steroids in sport, and some claim he could have dominated the track for many years had he not been caught.
Other Examples of Steroids in Sport
Of course, the athletes listed above are not the only ones who have run into trouble over their steroid use. Even some celebrities-turned-politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger have admitted to doping in their past.
- Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) – Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees denied using anabolic steroids in sports for nearly two years before he went to court and took an oath in front of the DEA. In that year (2014), A-Rod admitted to spending $12,000 a month on steroids – all of which were provided by an anti-aging clinic in New York.
- Lance Armstrong – The famed cyclist who is known for his wins and battle with metastatic testicular cancer is certainly no stranger to anabolic steroids. Like A-Rod, Armstrong denied ever using steroids in sport until the US Anti-Doping Agency delivered more than 1000 pages of evidence to officials. Later, after being stripped of his Tour de France title, he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show and admitted to using everything from HGH to testosterone (along with a bevy of other drugs.)
- Arnold Schwarzenegger – Long before Arnie was a movie star or politician, he was a competitive bodybuilder and seven-time Mr. Olympia winner. In 2005, in an interview with CBS’s George Stephanopoulos, he claimed he had no regrets about his steroid use. Schwarzenegger used steroids in the time before they were illegal, and long before the negative social stigma that exists today had developed.
- Tammy Thomas – Tammy Thomas, a would-be Olympic cyclist from the United States, is the most well-known example of a woman using steroids in sports. During the 2002 selection process for the cycling team, officials noted Tammy had undergone several odd changes. Not only had she put on a lot of mass, but she had also grown some facial hair, and it appeared that she had an Adam’s apple. Thomas subsequently failed doping screens, was convicted of a felony, and lost the privilege to participate in the Olympic games for life.
A Movement to Legalize
Back in 2014, Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) shocked the world when he admitted to steroid use, and the media covered it almost as carefully as they would cover a political scandal. This caused people to start asking questions, including whether people really still care about the use of steroids in sports. The argument is that these athletes already use a product called PRP, or platelet-rich plasma, to help reduce inflammation and boost their recovery, even in the middle of an event. Athletes may also receive corticosteroid and Toradol (an anti-inflammatory NSAID) right on the field, too.
The claim is that athletes already go above and beyond to enhance their performance by using things like PRP and studying their bodies’ reaction to different environments and activities, so why not allow them to make use of steroids in sport to maximize their potential? Again, it all comes down to morality and keeping the games “fair” for those who cannot or will not use steroids to enhance their performance. Imagine an NFL game in which one team is doping and the other is not. It would make for some seriously unhappy fans, to say the least.
Although steroids in sports are not as common as they were before the Olympics ban (and subsequent professional league bans) in the 1960s and 1970s, some athletes will still try their luck and pray they don’t get caught. For some athletes, that risk paid off; for others, they lost not only their bragging rights, but also some of their dignity.