The Rise of Steroid Use in Sports


An athlete signs the "Win Clean" anti-doping campaign board in London's Trafalgar Square. PHOTO: UK Government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport
An athlete signs the “Win Clean” anti-doping campaign board in London’s Trafalgar Square. PHOTO: UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Performance Enhancing Drugs, or PEDs, are used by athletes of all levels. The most common PED is the steroid, which increases strength artificially throughout the body. Athletes recently accused of using steroids or other PEDs include Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez. Lance Armstrong has admitted to using steroids during his cycling career. Alex Rodriguez has been accused of using PEDs as recently as last season (2011-2012) but his case is still under investigation.

Anabolic steroids were first created in the early 1930’s to increase appetite and make processes such as bone and muscle growth and puberty occur faster. According to the Center for Substance Abuse and Research, steroids were given to soldiers in World War II in order to make them stronger and more aggressive in battle. Steroid use in sports most likely began just before the World Weightlifting Championships of 1954 (TIME). The Germans may have used the steroids in order to dominate their competition and their previous performance from the year before. The athletes were questioned after the medal ceremony and traces of extra testosterone (from steroid use) were found in their systems.

Another major case in steroid use was Andy Pettite, who was considered to be a future Hall of Famer until he was accused of using the drug. Pettite ultimately admitted to using steroids in his 2002 season in order to recover from an arm injury.

Although steroids have been used for over 60 years, they have not gotten more sophisticated nor have they developed much, excluding the fact that many more types have been created. Steroid use is still common and the amount of users shows no signs of declining.

In a study from 2010, researchers found that around 5% of middle and high schoolers admitted to using steroids to gain muscle for sports or other reasons (Reuters). According to Dr. Linn Goldberg at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, “You get the influence of older teens in high school, so when you’re a 14-year-old that comes in, you have 17-year-olds who are the seniors, and they can have great influence as you progress into the next stage of your athletic career.”

Pressure to use steroids continues to increase in sports, even for those who do not play professionally.

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