Steroids in Exercising, Athletics, and their effects

Through all of history, athletes have searched for certain “foods” and “potions” to turn their old bodies into more powerful ones.  By doing this, many athletes turned to anabolic steroids.  When did these drugs come about, or what is the history behind steroids?  The noted history of anabolic steroids being abused drugs began in 1954 among Olympic weight lifters.  During 1956, American athletes first marketed Dianabol (Methandrostenolone) in the U.S., which provided a way for use.  In the beginning only the “world-class” athletes that participated in some of the sports that required more strength used them.  Athletes and their trainers began to develop high doses with different types of drugs.  These athletes and trainers went against scientist’s opinions about the high dosages.  Even though some scientists stated that there was no real evidence that steroids even caused muscle growth or caused the athlete to have improved ability.  They even warned that the large amounts would lead to serious side effects.  As steroids reputation grew they spread to other sports.  The only Olympic sports in which steroids have not been detected are figure skating and women’s field hockey.  Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s anabolic steroids spread beyond the Olympics.  In 1983, nineteen athletes were disqualified from the Olympics for steroid abuse.  A survey in 1970, showed that five American universities had at least 15% of college athletic abusers.  By the year 1984 20% of college athletes were using steroids (Koziris. 2000).

Anabolic steroids or anabolic-androgenic steroids are the synthetic derivatives of the naturally occurring male anabolic hormone testosterone. Both anabolic and androgenic have origins from the Greek: anabolic, meaning, “to build,” and androgenic, meaning “masculinizing.” Testosterone’s natural androgenic effects trigger the maturing of the male reproductive system in puberty, including the growth of body hair and the deepening of the voice.  The hormone’s anabolic effect helps the body retain dietary protein, which aids in the development of muscles.  There are many types of steroids with varying degrees of anabolic and androgenic properties; it is the anabolic property of steroids that attracts athletes, primarily to increase muscle mass and strength (Gallaway 73).

There should not be a controversy over anabolic steroid use in athletics, non-medical use of anabolic steroids is illegal and banned by most, if not all, and major sports organizations. Still, some athletes persist in taking them, believing that these substances provide a competitive advantage and by the desire to hopefully look, perform, and feel better, regardless of the dangers.  When taking anabolic steroids, it makes the athlete more aggressive, competitive, and fatigue resistant, which enables them to train harder for a longer period of time when the drug is being taken (Katch, Katch, and McArdle 458).  Athletes usually take anabolic steroids during the active part of their careers, in a practice called “stacking”, which they take a combined dose of the drug through both oral and injection form.  Anabolic steroids frequently are taken in conjunction with a resistance training program and an augmented protein intake (Embleton and Kennedy 267).  The result once again, is improvement in sports that require strength, speed, and power.

With all of this talk about better performance and everything.  Does taking anabolic steroids really work?  In the past, doctors believed that steroids did not really help athletes to gain muscle tissue.  The athletes taking steroids only thought this would happen, so they worked harder.  It was the focused attitude of the athlete and the physical stimulation of training that produced bodybuilding effects.  Athletes, coaches, trainers, and physicians report that there is a significant increase in lean muscle mass, strength, and endurance.  Anabolic steroids do not improve agility, skill, or cardiovascular capacity (Taylor 38).

It is not only the football player or weight lifter or sprinter who may be using anabolic steroids, nor is it only men. White- and blue-collar workers, females and, most alarmingly, adolescents take steroids. For example, it could be an 18-year-old who wants to pick up a few pounds because of the constant teasing that goes along with being skinny. Also a 15-year-old who just wants to reach maturity a little bit faster or maybe a policeman who wants more power on the job.  Despite what some people believe, males are not the only ones who use anabolic steroids.  Professional female track stars, swimmers, and body builders are just a few examples of athletes that use steroids.  In the United States, more than 300,000 men and women used anabolic steroids over the 1-year period from 1992-1993 (Katch, Katch, and McArdle 458).  More and more adolescents are turning to steroids for cosmetic reasons.  Younger users come from all different backgrounds; they range from wealthy, poor, and live in rural areas and cities.  Approximately 1 of 15 high school students, or about a half-million adolescents (250,000 high school students), has used steroids (Katch, Katch, and McArdle 458).  These are shocking numbers, all because teenagers want to improve their athletic performance or make their appearance look better.

Steroid-using athletes grow stronger, but serious side effects included unhealthy cholesterol profiles, heart attack, stroke, liver tumors, and prostate problems (Eichner. 1997).  There are many negative side effects for athletes of all ages and sexes who use anabolic steroids.  There are several warning signs of steroid use.  The first is a drastic increase in lean body weight (muscle); the second is a change in behavior, such as compulsive weightlifting or extreme aggressiveness; the third is the sometimes-prolonged recovery from relatively minor injuries like an ankle sprain (Sabock 263).  Some general side effects of using anabolic steroids include severe acne, edema, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, hair loss, hepatotoxicity, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease (Koziris. 2000).

Although anabolic steroids are derived from a male sex hormone, men who take them may actually experience a “feminization” effect along with a decrease in normal male sexual function.  When males use steroids, the excess steroids are metabolized into female sex hormones.  Large doses of anabolic steroids tend to make men irritable and moody at best, and at worst, raging, murderous, and suicidal (Eichner. 1997).  There are a lot of negative effects from men taking anabolic steroids, for instance, the body stops producing testosterone, and also stops producing sperm, which reduces the sperm count.  Using anabolic steroids for long periods of time can lead to infertility and reduced testicular size and can also lead to painful urination.  Other negative effects include development of female nipples and breasts, a higher risk of prostate diseases, and liver damage (Sabock 263).

On the other hand, women often experience a “masculinization” effect from anabolic steroids. Female athletes, more than male athletes, are likely to gain a competitive edge by using male hormones, which give females more muscle, less fat, narrower hips, and higher hematocrits (Eichner. 1997).  Just like men, women also experience increased aggression while taking anabolic steroids.  The negative effects that come from taking anabolic steroids in woman are facial hair starts to grow and their voices get deeper.  Other effects of steroid use in woman include permanent enlargement of the clitoris, menstrual difficulties, permanently decreased in breast size, and male appearance, which might also affect reproduction capability (Sabock 263).

Adolescents that use anabolic steroids are affected differently that men and woman that use the drug.  Anabolic steroids can effect bone growth during puberty.  This happens because the long bones of the legs and arms are still growing in early adolescence.  There is also an increase in acne.  Acne decreases when steroid use is stopped but may leave scarring.  Male pattern baldness also occurs in both male and females.  Some believe that the hair returns after steroid use and others believe it is irreversible (Yesalis 56).

After a person begins to use anabolic steroids the first few times, they have to increase the dosage to get the same effect before.  After doing this for some time the person becomes dependent on it.  Since they have used the drug for a while their bodies need it in order to function properly.  In order to stop using the drug their body goes through a stage called “withdrawal,” this is when the person gets sick because of not using the drug (Koziris.  2000). Anabolic steroids are very hard to give up because when the person stops using them their whole self-image starts to fade away.  If they start up again the pain goes away and they have difficulties stopping use even though they know it’s bad for them.

Many athletes want to enhance their performance not only by exercising but using anabolic steroids. Steroids are not only illegal; they are also dangerous to a person’s health.  Steroid use might get you an edge on the next guy, but is it really worth it?  There are so many negative side effects of anabolic steroid use in people of all ages, in which some are irreversible.  Anabolic steroids are very addictive and once addicted it is very hard to stop the use of the drug.  The human body is too precious to let something like steroids destroy it, just for an extra edge.  Instead of using anabolic steroids put in some extra time at the gym and stay away from using steroids, they can destroy your life.

Works Cited


Eichner, Randy E.  “Ergogenic Aids:  What Athletes Are Using – and Why.”

The Physician and Sportsmedicine Journal.  Apr. 97.

Embleton, Phil and Kennedy, Robert.  “Anabolic Edge: Secrets for ThatExtra Lean Body Mass.”   Musclemag International, May 2000.

Gallaway, Steve.  The Steroid Bible.  Belle International, June 97.

Katch, Frank I., Victor L. Katch, and William D. McArdle.  Exercise Physiology:Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance.  Philadelphia:  Lippincott Williams &Wilkins, 1996.


Koziris, Lymperis.  “Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Abuse.”  The Physician and  Sportsmedicine Journal.  Dec. 2000.

Sabock, Ralph J.  Coaching:  A Realistic Perspective.  San Diego:  Collegia Press, 2000.


Taylor, William N.  Anabolic Steroids and the Athlete 2d. Ed.  MacFarland& Company, Inc Publishers, January 2002.

Yesalis, Charles E.  Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise.  Human Kinetic Publisher, January 2000.


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