Steroids are a double-edged sword with a sharp handle

by | Feb 29, 2024 | Opinion

I’ve always thought of what life would be like if I could pass my natural limits. If I could serendipitously run half a mile faster than the other kid. If I could swim quicker and longer in the final competition filled with everyone’s expectations, hopes and fears of my own performance. Perhaps I could have been enough. 

Wanting to gain the advantage in a competition has always been a primal instinct amongst every human competing against each other. From politics to fashion, people will do whatever it takes to be the final triumphant person within every rivalry. Naturally, sporting events are no different. Some athletes are ready to win at all costs, and some may even turn to the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) to stand out amongst their competitors. 

Some of the most famous PED scandals include the use of a nervous system stimulating amphetamine in the 1967 Tour De France by Tom Simpson. These drugs forced that his body to ignore signs of overexertion and dehydration; he collapsed and eventually died on Mont Venoux after a heart attack. PEDs were banned in cycling after this. Countries use them, too. Germany was forcing 9000 athletes to use steroids from the 1970’s to 80’s, and Russia was banned from world champion and Olympic events for four years due to manipulating steroid test results. 

So what are PEDs? 

Commonly referred to as steroids, PEDs are substances that contain artificially produced hormones already contained in the human body. The most common types of PEDs are anabolic steroids, peptide hormones like erythropoietin and stimulants. Anabolic steroids increase levels of testosterone and cause muscle growth, bone growth and increased strength in those areas. Some side effects include unusually aggressive behaviour, swelling of legs and feet with fluid, liver disease and decreased fertility. Stimulants increase alertness and energy but can cause heart failure; erythropoietin increases blood cell production but can cause strokes and blood clotting. 

Canadian researchers have found that steroid use has grown in popularity outside of athletic events and are now being for recreational reasons, like improving appearance with enhanced muscle mass and strength. While the results are enticing, based on all the side effects that come with using steroids, there is not a high enough payoff to risk it.

The only way in which using these drugs might be a better alternative is during medical emergencies that require the use of them for body maintenance. 

Maybe I would be able to run faster than everyone by half a mile, or maybe I would be able to win the swimming competition by a fifteen second margin. But this will only provide the illusion that I am getting healthier, since steroid use doesn’t actually strengthen the body, but forces it beyond its natural limits. Continued use can easily become unsustainable. As steroid use grows in popularity, more people are putting themselves in harm’s way and the handle becomes sharper while the blade continues to dull. 

The best alternative to looking better, being stronger, or running and swimming faster is to do consistent and simple exercise a few times per week over several months or years. The best way to feel more confident and truly reach your physical potential is by working out naturally without the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs of any kind; otherwise, you will only be cheating yourself.

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