During the past 40 years the use of performance enhancing substances in athletics has increased at every level. Sports have been played by men and women on artificial testosterone for more than four decades. Every legitimate athletic achievement has been shadowed by a parallel universe of counterfeit Olympic gold medals, testosterone touchdowns, and hormonal home runs.
There is so much pressure in the competitive nature of sports that athletes have felt the need to use alternate methods to win. Athletes have chosen synthetic methods to enhance performance as opposed to the traditional methods of hard work such as training, practicing, and conditioning.
Many athletes feel more than just the pressure to win. They have constantly felt the pressure from their coaches, agents, and fans. Athletes only have a short period of time in order to make their mark in their career. The time span for most athletes’ short lived career is only five to ten years, if they’re lucky. During these short lived careers one can face obstacles of injuries, which could make their career even shorter. So looking at it from an athlete’s point of view, you would have very little time to accomplish your goals as a successful athlete. You would also have to look at the fact that your career could end at any time if you get injured.
Athletes are also faced with the amount of money they can earn as a professional athlete. Imagine that you are facing a major professional contract worth millions of dollars. This could really change your perspective or even your opinion on performance enhancing drugs. Facing these circumstances you might ask yourself, would you consider using these drugs that could potentially end your career or maybe even your life? Would taking these drugs be worth the risk of the life long pain and agony that you could end up being succumbed to, all for fame and fortune? “The use of drugs to enhance performance in sports will not go away. Athletes seek every competitive advantage and the rewards of success at top level are great, both financially and in personal glory.” (MacAuley, 1996)
During the long history of sports certain rules and traditions have developed. Sports fans have developed certain expectations of athletes and coaches. These rules and traditions are what have brought fairness to the game. Picture this, your favorite team is playing, say at a World Series level, and one team has the majority of its players under the influence of some type of performance enhancing drugs. Now whether it was your favorite team or not, would you be disappointed? Not knowing if your team possessed the capability of achieving the same outcome in the game if these drugs were not used. Or you could even look at it from a different perspective. Say the referee in the game was playing favorites and only called game violations against one team, would it be a fair game? Or would it even be a game worth watching?
Standards are set in different sports to ensure that every athlete has an equal opportunity to perform to the best of their ability. During competition, athletes are challenged to follow the rules and standards of fair play. According to Yesalis (1998), a student athlete is cheating when he or she intentionally uses illegal drugs to gain a competitive advantage.
This brings me to the topic of sportsmanship. Players get thrown out of games for unsportsmanlike behavior, or conduct unbecoming to an athlete. That is but not limited to things like fighting, cheating and even the most common disagreeing with a referee. The definition of sportsmanship is “conduct (as fairness, respect for one’s opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). That’s interesting ‘the graciousness in winning or losing’ One of the main reasons athletes use performance enhancing drugs in sports is to win, But what about the ‘graciousness in losing’. I would have to say there would be no ‘graciousness in losing’ with the use of performance enhancing drugs. So I guess it would be fair to say that the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports is completely unsportsmanlike.
Performance enhancing drugs are said to be unethical or even cheating just like the scenarios you’ve just considered. There are many different points of view one can take when looking at the concept of performance enhancing drug in sports. Most people think that sports should be about training, practicing, and conditioning. An athlete should be utilizing and developing their natural talent not falsifying their talent.
There are many different types of performance enhancing drugs. The popular term for using these drugs is called “doping”. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, the term “doping” probably comes from the Afrikaans word “dop,” a concoction made from grape leaves that Zulu warriors drank before going into battle. In sports, the term was first used to describe the illegal drugging of race horses at the beginning of the 20th century.
Doping in sports now includes a range of practices, including “blood doping” (the practice of hemoglobin transfusions) and the use of synthetic erythropoietin (EPO) to increase the number of red blood cells. This helps boost the flow on oxygen through the body for better endurance. Anabolic steroids and human growth hormones will grow skeletal muscle with stimulants and improve cognitive function and reduce fatigue. Nitrogen helps to simulate the effect of sleeping at high altitudes.
These methods of doping can be very dangerous to your health. They hold very serious side effects, such as physical, mental and emotional. Many changes take place inside the body and may not be noticed until it is too late. Some of the effects will go away when steroid use stops, but some may not. Some of the more serious physical side effects that can be caused by these drugs for both male and female, are high blood pressure and heart disease, also stroke and blood clots. They also cause things like jaundice and liver damage because these substances are normally broken down in the liver. The most commonly used drugs effect the heart, brain, and muscles. Now if you think about that, those are major organs of the body. You cannot live without a liver, heart, or brain. Everything in your body is a muscle, and that is what steroids effect the most, the muscles.
Then there are some of the not so serious side effects such as urinary and bowel problems, like diarrhea. Headaches, aching joints and muscle cramps. Nausea and vomiting, and sleep problems like insomnia. You also run the risk the increased chance of ligament and tendon injuries, which could end your career. Steroids also cause severe acne, especially on face and back, and baldness. This for someone who is seeking fame and fortune, and wishes to be in the “lime light” it is not such an attractive thing to have those physical problems.
Other drugs that are used can cause the mental and emotional side effects. Such as mood swings, depression, and aggression because they act on various centers of the brain. Those symptoms are often referred to as “roid rage” With these major side effects, and running the risk of damaging yourself both mentally and physically, once again you must ask yourself a question, Is short term fame and glory worth long term pain and suffering?
“Substance abuse is a threat to the mental and physical health of athletes. When athletes choose to use substances to enhance performance they are focusing on short-term benefits. In the long-term this could result in psychological and physical dependence on drugs” (Yesalis, 1998)
Athletes who use performance enhancing drugs are focusing on their life as they know it now without having any concern for what the future might hold. Any performance enhancing drugs that are used by anyone for any reason is unethical and unprofessional.
Considering the fact that these drugs have been involved in sports for the past 40 years makes me wonder. Every title, metal, or trophy that was won, were the athletes that won them as deserving of them as they could have been without the use of these drugs. “The important thing in life is not to triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” (Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Modern Olympic Games).