Last updated on: 5/10/2021 | Author: ProCon.org

Should Anabolic Steroid Use Be Accepted in Sports?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Maryville University, in an undated article accessed on Apr. 14, 2021, “Understanding and Preventing Steroid Abuse in Sports,” available at online.maryville.edu, stated:

“Steroids are synthetic drugs that imitate hormones our bodies produce naturally as part of maturation or in response to stress. Anabolic steroids imitate male sex hormones — the proper term for them is anabolic-androgenic steroids. The term anabolic refers to the process of building muscle tissue, while androgenic refers to male sex characteristics. Anabolic steroids are the kind typically abused by athletes.

People often think of anabolic steroids when someone refers to steroids, but the term steroids may also refer to corticosteroids. These steroids imitate cortisone hormones produced by the body’s adrenal glands in response to stress. There are also other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) that people sometimes mistakenly refer to as steroids…

According to the medical journal Pediatrics in Review, performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) include various “anabolic agents,” such as anabolic steroids and steroid precursors, as well as nutritional supplements, stimulants, and other agonists, such as human growth hormone. People sometimes refer to performance enhancing drugs generally as steroids. While it’s true that steroids are PEDs, PEDs are not necessarily all steroids.”

Apr. 14, 2021

Elizabeth Quinn, exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant, in a July 26, 2020 article, “Anabolic Steroid Use in Sports,” available at verywellfit.com, stated:

“Drugs commonly referred to as steroids in sports are more accurately classified as anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) or simply anabolic steroids. These include natural steroids like testosterone and synthetic versions that are structurally similar to testosterone and work just as effectively. Both are available by prescription and are used to treat a variety of conditions associated with testosterone deficiency (hypogonadism) in men and women…

Anabolic steroids are sometimes accessed by athletes and bodybuilders for non-medical purposes to build muscle, endurance, and strength. Use of this sort is illegal and banned by most sports organizations.1 Still, there are athletes who continue to use them illegally despite evidence that they can cause serious health problems…

The term ‘anabolic’ is used to describe the process wherein smaller molecules bind together to build bigger ones. The term “androgenic” refers to male hormones, known as androgens. Anabolic steroids should not be confused with corticosteroids, such as cortisone or prednisone. These are drugs used by doctors to treat acute and chronic inflammation.

Anabolic-androgenic drugs work by increasing protein within cells, most especially skeletal muscles. The elevated testosterone levels can also increase endurance capacity and delay on the onset of fatigue, enhancing the overall performance of athletes…

Steroids are taken either orally (in pill form) or via intramuscular injections. Dosing is commonly done in cycles of weeks or months, with a short break in between. The practice is referred to as ‘cycling.’

‘Stacking’ refers to the use of several different types of steroids at the same time. ‘Pyramiding,’ meanwhile, refers to the practice of slowly increasing the number, dose, or frequency of steroids to reach a certain peak, after which the amount and frequency are gradually tapered down…

It is not uncommon for athletes to use 10 to 100 times the dose prescribed for legitimate medical use with little consideration as to the long-term consequences.”

July 26, 2020

PRO (yes)

Pro

Alexander Clarke, personal trainer for power lifters and editor of British Strength magazine, as quoted in a Mar. 13, 2020 article, “Powerlifting Is One of the Only Sports Where Steroids Are Allowed,” written by Aline Aronsky and available at vice.com, stated:

“The tested and untested categories are great, because some people don’t want to take steroids [and are in the drug tested category]. Some people do want to take steroids [and are in the untested category]. Let’s see how far we can take the human body with a bit of a chemical tweak. Let’s see how far we can take the body naturally. Let people have their options, don’t take it away from them…

A lot of people are using [steroids] that just don’t need to. You don’t need to use gear to be 12 stone [168 pounds] with a six-pack. Honestly, you just have to work harder. If you want to be a powerlifting freak, then you’re probably going to have to use them. If you’re a very competitive person, you’re going to do what it takes.”

Mar. 13, 2020

Pro

Mac McCann, columnist for The Horn at the University of Texas-Austin, in an Oct. 13, 2017 article, “Debate: Should Performance-Enhancing Drugs Be Legalized?,” available at blueridgeoutdoors.com, stated:

“In theory, banning doping prevents athletes from taking unfair shortcuts and keeps sports on a level playing field. In reality, these bans have done less to protect fairness and punish rule-breakers and more to discourage athletes from reaching the highest levels of success…

How many people would have cared about the Tour de France without Armstrong’s stunning feats? Before failing a drug test in 2006, Shawne Merriman was in highlight reel upon highlight reel during his 2005 season as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Who can deny the excitement of 1998’s record-breaking MLB home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa? Recently busted Alex Rodriguez is a career .300 hitter with 647 career homeruns, a 14 time all-star, a 3 time AL MVP and a World Series Champion.

We can continue the trend of hand-wringing and hysteria, with one doping scandal after another, further embarrassing the field of professional athletics – or we can legalize and regulate performance-enhancing drugs to the benefit of sports and sports fans alike. Let’s do ourselves and our athletes a service by allowing them to perform at their best.”

Oct. 13, 2017

Pro

Chris Smith, former Forbes staff writer, in an Aug. 24, 2012 article, “Why It’s Time To Legalize Steroids in Professional Sports,” available at forbes.com, stated:

“Steroids, doping and other illicit performance enhancing drugs and treatments have become the biggest scourge of professional sports leagues, and that’s why it may be time they were made legal.

The primary reason why performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) are outlawed in professional sports is that they give users an unfair advantage over the rest of the field. Various professional sports leagues have attempted to set a level playing field by testing for drug use and suspending those found guilty. It’s a noble effort, but it’s clearly not working… So if we really want to level the playing field, it may be time to head in the other direction: legalize performance enhancers.

Not only would the playing field suddenly be even for all players, it would be at a higher level. A huge part of watching sports is witnessing the very peak of human athletic ability, and legalizing performance enhancing drugs would help athletes climb even higher. Steroids and doping will help pitchers to throw harder, home runs to go further, cyclists to charge for longer and sprinters to test the very limits of human speed…

Athletes are going to take steroids and turn to doping regardless of the rules. Drug use in cycling is seemingly as old as the sport itself, and baseball players have tried to cut corners wherever possible, whether it be with spit balls, corked bats, stimulants or steroids. It doesn’t justify the actions of Armstrong, Cabrera or Colon – they knew the rules and chose to break them – but the current system has continually failed to establish a level playing field for the world’s most talented athletes. Legalizing steroids, doping and other performance enhancers would finally set an even bar, and that would just be the first of many benefits.”

Aug. 24, 2012

Pro

Norman Fost, MD, MPH, Professor and Director of the Medical Ethics Program at the University of Wisconsin, made the following statement in a Dec. 18, 2006 interview published by Scout.com (a Fox Sports News website) titled “Baseball Men – The Skeptic”:

“[W]e allow people to do far more dangerous things than play football or baseball while using steroids. We allow people to bungee-jump, to ski on advanced slopes, to cliff dive. To eat marbled meat or ice cream pie every day if they want. I don’t think we want to go down a path in which we restrict and even criminalize behaviors just because they have health risks. And steroids are so low on the list of drugs or diets that cause serious harm I don’t understand why we would start there.”

Dec. 18, 2006 - Norman Fost, MD, MPH

Pro

Jennifer Sey, former US national champion gymnast, wrote the following information in an Aug. 10, 2008 Salon.com article titled “Let ‘Em Eat Steroids”:

“When athletes compete at the highest levels, all that matters is winning. The environment can become cultlike, in that normal standards no longer apply…

I don’t blame the athletes like Marion Jones for juicing their performance with a little extra oomph. She’s caught up in her sport; she needs that little somethin’ somethin’ to maintain her edge. Everyone else is doing it. If you shot me up with whatever she had, I wouldn’t be the fastest woman alive. It was still her out there on that track.

If the athletes are willing to risk their health – which many do already without taking steroids – let them. It doesn’t ruin it for me.”

Aug. 10, 2008 - Jennifer Sey

Pro

Gary Roberts, JD, Editor-in-chief of The Sports Lawyer, submitted the following response in a Dec. 13, 2004 debate entry titled “What Should Baseball Do About Drugs,” published by Legal Affairs:

“Home runs are hit only because the player has great skill at swinging a bat at a little ball coming at him at over 90 mph. Most of the folks reading this could take steroids all their lives and still not be able to hit that little ball.

If someone wants to earn millions of dollars being a professional baseball player, he may feel pressured to use steroids to make himself the best that he can be. If he doesn’t want to take those health risks, he can take his chances or go into some other line of work. Nobody forces anyone to be a baseball player. That is true for guys who fight oil well fires, tame lions, or do dangerous stunts for the movies, as well.

In short, if the public wants to see 500 foot home runs and there are young men willing to run the health risks associated with taking substances that allow them to hit those home runs and make millions of dollars, why not cut the pretense of public outrage and let them do it?”

Dec. 14, 2004 - Gary Roberts, JD

Pro

Eric Walker, retired sports consultant for the Oakland A’s, stated the following opinion in his Steroids And Baseball website (accessed Dec. 3, 2008):

“There is simply no plausible case, ethical or practical, to be made for prohibiting [steroid] use, not in law, not in sports-organization codes…

It is supposed to be a basic tenet of any society daring to call itself ‘free’ that it is not to regulate conduct that is not risky to those not willingly accepting the risk…many would say that it ought not even to regulate conduct that is risky unless that risk is material.

The various ‘risks’ ignorantly (or deliberately) assigned to [steroid] use are by and large specious. In sum, there are medical risks, but of nothing remotely like the variety or severity commonly suggested. In reality, they are unlikely, usually minor, and almost universally reversible.”

Dec. 3, 2008 - Eric Walker

Pro

Glenn Darby, sports editor at Fox News, wrote the following information in a Mar. 27, 2008 article titled “Alex Rodriguez Fallout: Is There Any Stopping Steroids?” and published on the Bleacher Report website:

“Doctors will tell me that steroids are dangerous. Acne and ‘roid rage’ are not the only side-effects. Tumors and jaundice are always a possibility, and there is death. Of course, that doesn’t stop doctors from prescribing them for patients for things ranging from an infection all the way up to cancer. They are hormones and, just like anything else, are bad when used too much. So why not control it?

If a baseball player has a doctor who says it is okay for them to use steroids, who is MLB to stop them? Those who buy it without a prescription (or obtain prescriptions from vets and other weird doctors) should be prosecuted by the law and not MLB. Other than that, let the doctors continue to make us better athletes. They’ve been doing it forever. No sense in stopping now.”

Mar. 27, 2008 - Glenn Darby

CON (no)

Con

Maryville University, in an undated article, “Understanding and Preventing Steroid Abuse in Sports,” available at online.maryville.edu and accessed on Apr. 14, 2021, stated:

“The use of steroids in sports is a concern for coaches, managers, parents, and peers of athletes. Additionally, athletes who abuse steroids have reason to be concerned themselves.

Although steroids come with the promise of enhancing the athlete’s ability to perform, these drugs have side effects, and athletes are setting themselves up for potential complications with dependence and even addiction. Simply put, athletes who abuse steroids are heading down an illegitimate path. While steroids might give them an unfair advantage in the short-term, they also set them up for failure in more ways than one.”

Apr. 14, 2021

Con

BJJ Heroes, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu publication, in an undated editorial, “Are Steroids a Necessary Evil in Grappling?,” available at bjjheroes.com and accessed on Apr. 14, 2021, stated:

“Doping [steroid use] is a great health risk, arguably not as dangerous as media tends to portray it, but still a very noticeable impact on an adult’s health and longevity. If someone is using, everyone else just has to use to stay competitive. Combat sports athletes are expected to take risks, their whole career is an assault on the body, however, when an athlete chooses to take PEDs, particularly harder substances, he is adding another layer of risk which may deeply diminish his quality of life in old age or outright shorten his lifespan. To ‘open the gates’ of drug use in sports, meaning, removing the ethical component, will invariably force clean athletes to become users or render themselves obsolete and, expect to have current users doubling down on their resources.”

Apr. 14, 2021

Con

George Murray, Hilltop Views Sports Editor, in a Mar. 11, 2020 article, “FaceOff: Doping Damages Reputation of Sport, Attacks Integrity of Professions,” available at hilltopviewsonline.com, stated:

“There are so many reasons as to why doping — defined as “the use of a substance (such as an anabolic steroid or erythropoietin) or technique (such as blood doping) to illegally improve athletic performance” — is wrong. Fundamentally, it is cheating. It brings the sport into disrepute and, once they are caught, irreparably damages the reputation of athletes who choose to knowingly compromise their careers.

Doping also undermines years of training and defeats the purpose of naturally pushing and improving the human body. What is the point of training and rising to an international level if, once there, you take a shortcut and use illegal substances to beat others who are clean? It doesn’t register with me…

[S]uch drugs are banned because if one athlete is taking it and another isn’t, it is both physically and humanly impossible for the clean athlete to compete with his doping opponent. Ethically, beyond the unfairness, there are short and long-term health effects, there is damage done to the reputation of sport if role-models are seen to be cheating.

On an economic level, not all countries and athletes have the same access to performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Legalizing drug use in sport would create a chasm and remove its beautiful unpredictability, preventing certain disadvantaged athletes and nations from being able to compete at all.”

Mar. 11, 2020

Con

Athletes Against Steroids, an outreach and educational organization dedicated to eradicating steroids in sports, wrote the following information on its website (accessed Dec. 8, 2008):

“Young athletes everywhere are turning to performance enhancement drugs – playing steroid roulette with their lives in hopes of making it into the ‘big leagues.’ They’re falling for the big lie that these drugs are safe and okay to use. And why shouldn’t they? After all, aren’t many of their favorite sports heroes juicing and getting paid millions of dollars a year for doing so?

But the truth is that steroids are KILLERS…DESTROYERS…LIFE WRECKERS!…[S]ome people contend that there is very little evidence that steroids actually cause death. Well the truth is – they are just plain wrong! Anabolic steroids along with the whole panoply of other performance-enhancing drugs really do kill.”

Dec. 8, 2008 - Athletes Against Steroids

Con

Deborah Sorensen, former US professional bodybuilder, was quoted as having said the following in an article titled “A Female Steroid User Describes Drug Hell!” published on the Athletes Against Steroids website (accessed Dec. 8, 2008):

“Part of being an athlete is that you become vulnerable to the whim of every trainer, coach, media person, promoter, and sponsor. They want freaks. So you set out to be a freak or go unnoticed. The things you are willing to do for success are humiliating to think about.

I was a hard, suspicious, neurotic woman while I was taking steroids. That just isn’t me. I’ve seen marriages dissipate, families break up and financial security dissolve because of these drugs. I’ve seen men go on a cycle of [steroids] with the money they’d saved for their children’s clothes, and I’ve watched innocent victims get thrown across a bar room for no reason by men who haven’t the ability to control their aggression while using [steroids]. I’ve watched happy, energetic and positive guys go from Dr. Jeckyl to Mr. Hyde, and I’ve seen petite women turn into hulking no-neck bearded monsters with acne all over their backs and shoulders…

[I] hope that at least one person will decide not to use steroids…or a few people in the same situation will become aware, as I did, and stop before their tragedy comes back to haunt them.”

Dec. 8, 2008 - Deborah Sorensen

Con

Paul Finkelman, PhD, President William Mckinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy at Albany Law School, submitted the following response in a Dec. 13, 2004 debate entry titled “What Should Baseball Do About Drugs,” published by Legal Affairs:

“Steroids undermine the integrity [of the game] by placing in doubt the skills of the players, as fans assume that homers are hit because of steroids, not skill.

Steroids are obviously dangerous to the players…Professional baseball players are adults and can make adult decisions. But, the issue of steroids is not that simple. If some players use steroids, others are forced to do the same, in order to compete; those who do not may lose their job…Those who use them harm their bodies; those who don’t use them face unfair competition…Thus we have an industry which condones, and silently encourages (through higher salaries) the use of something known to be harmful to their employees. In no other industry would we condone this or encourage it…

Baseball should develop an ironclad rule that is tough and only slightly forgiving. If a player is caught using steroids he should be out of baseball for a full year. If the player uses them again, he should be banned for life. No one uses steroids by accident. So, proof of steroid use should lead to automatic suspension from the game or a complete ban from the game.”

Dec. 13, 2004 - Paul Finkelman, PhD

Con

Robert L. Simon, PhD, Marjorie and Robert W. McEwen Professor of Philosophy at Hamilton College, stated the following in a Dec. 7, 2004 live internet chat with online readers titled “Drugs in Sports: Robert Simon,” published by USAToday.com:

“I would argue that prohibition [of steroids] is justified because (1) steroid use makes little sense if everyone uses; gains are minimal and everyone is exposed to the risks, (2) how your body reacts to a steroid is not an athletic talent like running or hitting, and (3) it’s worth protecting the ideal of sport as a healthy pursuit. Critics might reply that it is better to give people choices, but I would give greater weight to protecting the idea of sport as a healthy pursuit where the rules make sense when applied to everyone and that we focus on athletic ability, not how one’s body reacts to a drug.”

Dec. 7, 2004 - Robert Simon, PhD

Con

Joe Biden, JD, US Vice President-elect, wrote the following statements in an op-ed article first published by The Hartford Courant on Mar. 17, 2005:

“The BALCO steroid scandal proved that athletes who can make millions are willing to spend thousands to gain an edge and not get caught. It is time for all pro sports in America to get in line with the high standards of the Olympics. Steroid users of all ages believe it will make them stronger, but they ignore the serious health hazards. It puts people at greater risk for heart attacks and strokes, increases aggressiveness, stunts growth and can cause liver and kidney damage. Many of these side effects are irreversible…[y]et, many pro baseball players remain cavalier…

Many believe we should have more important things to investigate than Major League Baseball. To a certain extent, I agree: This is clearly not the No.1 issue facing Congress…[but] steroids…are not just baseball’s problem…this truly is a national problem, and the seriousness and urgency with which athletes, owners, educators, parents and community leaders confront it will speak volumes about the kind of society in which we want to live and the values we cherish.”

Mar. 17, 2005 - Joe Biden, JD