The Dangers of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs)

In the days of its conception, bodybuilding was seen as a simple display of a man’s power in olden Egyptian and Greek societies. The act of carrying a heavy or tremendous of weight to impress people or crowds was not only a measure of that man’s strength, but was also seen as a form of entertainment in these societies. Fast forward to now, and Body lifting has transformed into a massive social and cultural phenomenon in the world throughout. Names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone are very familiar to the bodybuilding community, since both the actors previously acted in or were involved in real life professional activities regarding weightlifting or boxing. But ever since the Schwarzenegger era of weightlifting, the explosion of drugs and mass-produced “get muscle-fast!” products being widely available to anyone, Bodybuilding has transformed into a dangerous sport to get into. By people risking their health to promote a physical appearance, Bodybuilders improve their outside features and not their nutrition. Lifters promote heavy lifting, cutting weight, starvation, and large amounts of protein. These lifters are likely to develop arthritis, cancer from the large amounts of protein, obesity, and worse, losing the ability to walk or use their hands. People need to be re-informed of the dangers of performance enhancing drugs and make sure they are not being used in professional sports, or worse, our youth.

In David Robson’s article A History Lesson in Bodybuilding, Robson states that when bodybuilding started hitting the mainstream from the 60’s to the 80’s, many people jumped into the sport, hoping they could earn a piece in history in weightlifting amongst their idols. Soon, those people would find out that the very same idols they worshiped achieved all their weightlifting goals by the help of steroids, performance enhancers, and many other drugs.

So what are these drugs that helped these athletes burn fat more quickly and become overnight cultural icons? Anabolic steroids, as they are known, were taken by many weightlifters in Eastern Europe, especially the Soviet Union. When the weightlifters of the United States lost in the 1950’s to the Soviets, many Americans were puzzled.  Once the Americans discovered what that the Soviet governments were using the anabolic steroids to create ideal soldiers and weightlifters, in an arms race mindset, the Americans started to do the same. Soon, the latter 60’s through the 70’s were dominated by American steroid use, down to the lowest, college and high school levels. This overnight explosion of drug use in bodybuilding, and professional sports in general caused a huge transformation in the sporting landscape. Soon, the youth also turned to these drugs to get immediate results, without thinking about the long-term impacts it would have to their bodies. Little did these athletes know, once these steroids are taken on a routine basis, the damage done to their bodies is almost irreversible.

Initially, the side effects of steroids are almost unnoticeable, with the occasional acne and flustered skin on people’s bodies. Once the person starts taking the steroids more frequently, heart disease, liver disease, muscle deformities and dysfunction can start to plague the user. In an article by Mitchell Barnett called Women and Anabolic Steroids, Barnett discovered that women also have different side effects if they use steroids frequently enough, such as menstrual irregularities and infertility.

Athletes who also partake in performance enhancing drugs also create an unfair advantage for themselves, which can discourage hard-working athletes who are putting effort into their sport without the use of these drugs, but aren’t being recognized because some athlete who used PED’s won instead of him or her. In addition, professional athletes who get caught using performance enhancing drugs don’t realize how a quickly their fans or fans of the sport can develop a negative mindset towards them and the sport. This can not only result in a decline in the fame and popularity of the professional athlete, but also the sport as well. Recent scandals in the past twenty years in Major League Baseball and the Lance Armstrong PED scandal in professional cycling are perfect examples of what happens when athletes take performance enhancing drugs and gets caught, which is a decline in not only their respective popularity, but the sport as well. This is because most people have shallow mindsets, and feel that if one athlete in professional sport is taking drugs to enhance is performance, than all professionals in that respective sport are. This in turn causes them to not only stop supporting not only the athlete, but the sport altogether as well.

So why do these athletes take these performance-enhancing drugs if they know they are dangerous and life threatening? Simply put, these athletes feel as if the short-term success that these drugs will provide for them outweighs the possible dangers of the drugs. In addition, when these athletes realize how quickly they can excel in a short of time, it only provokes them to keep taking the performance enhancing drugs. Others feel as if they are invincible and that their already professionally built bodies won’t be harmed by the side effects of these drugs. In order for them to maintain the success they achieved with steroids, their only option is to take more steroids.

Though there are strict rules and regulations regarding performance enhancers in professional sports today, many of the producers of these performance enhancers have gotten smarter have made themselves even more accessible that ever before by being marketed and sold as beverage powders, which can be easily mixed and put into your common glass of water or milk. These beverage powders then change your common drink of water or milk into a glass oversaturated and overloaded with caffeine, protein, and tons of energy-stimulating chemicals that can be very harmful to the body is these servings. Increase in aggression, acne, and other symptoms are the same side effects from the performance enhancing drugs of yesterday. Erin Simmons is an established navy seal who has written his own book regarding weightlifting. He is also involved with bodybuilding and its many other popular lifting organizations.  In Erin Simmons self-titled novel, Erin Simmons explains that weight lifting has lost its integrity and its sincerity as a legitimate sport. In addition, the book also talks about how miseducated people are when it comes to weightlifting and how people don’t focus on the nutrition aspect of it.

If athletes and instructors emphasized long term nutrition and exercise instead of performance enhancing drugs, it would benefit not only them, but also coaches, managers, and team who want their players to play longer at a competitive level. In fact, articles like Nutrition for the Athlete by J. Anderson, L. Young and S. Prior state that it is necessary for athletes to have a good nutrition in order to perform at their peak performance. Also, athletes should consume right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and water to help increase their endurance for their future performances. Once these professional athletes start promoting and being a part of having a nutritious diet, this will also encourage the youth to the same, since the majority of fans who idolize these professionals in sports are young people.

            Not only should athletes be focused on nutrition, but they should be focused on how and when they workout. When athletes are using performance enhancing drugs, they tend to not workout on a routine basis, since the steroids give them temporary strength to help maintain their physical stamina and endurance. But once their tolerance to the drugs builds up, they tend to start taking more steroids to help maintain bodies, and eventually some athletes stop training altogether, because they feel steroids provides them an enough boost to keep them competitive. This method of relying on constant doping to maintain physique and not exercising is dangerous, and lead to serious muscle damage. Since the user’s bodies are being saturated with testosterone and aren’t being pushed by working out, their muscles can start dysfunction and have some serious damage. Theodore R. Fields, an medical expert on steroids, stated in his online article, Steroid Side Effects: How to Reduce Corticosteroid Side Effects, that once a user tries to withdraw and stop doing steroids, the user will experience muscle stiffness, tenderness, and joint pain. Coaches, team managers, and owners need to emphasize working out on a frequent routine basis, with workouts not being strenuous, but still challenging. This will not only keep their bodies in peak shape throughout their performance, but will also keep them healthy with throughout their life in the long run.

So, when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs being used in bodybuilding today, what’s the solution to the problem? How can we combat and prevent drug use to the youth who are recreationally and professionally participating in bodybuilding? In Jay Grant’s article How To Stop PED Use in Every Sport, Grant states that schools could help educate the youth about the dangers of bodybuilding and incorporating drug use by establishing federal youth anti-drug programs, like D.A.R.E., which could show a video or have a officer talk to a classroom about the dangers of PEDs. Also, coaches nationwide should establish a performance-enhancing drug test for all high school and college tests, which would help discourage use if those students wanted to continue playing sports. Schools should also establish a zero-tolerance policy for performance-enhancing drugs for the students that athletically involved the school. With these initial steps, this would help create a more fair and level playing field in sports throughout, and would also help these athletic students become more nutritious-minded about their bodies. In addition, sports on a professional and recreational level will be more evened out, because athletes will be more knowledgeable and not participate in the usage of performance enhancing drugs.

Works Cited Page

(1.) Bacino, Leonard. “Performance Enhancing Drugs and Weightlifting | Lost Battalion Hall Weightlifting.” Lost Battalion Hall Weightlifting. Lost Battalion Hall Weightlifting, 23 Feb. 2006. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

(2.) Robson, David. “A History Lesson In Bodybuilding –”, 13 May 2013. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

(3.) Woerner, Amanda. “MLB Players’ Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs Comes with Serious Health Risks.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 06 Aug. 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.

(4.) Steroids – Abuse, Side Effects and Safety.” Anabolic Steroids – Abuse, Side Effects and Safety., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.

(5) Barnett, Mitchell (Nov 2010). “Women and Anabolic Steroids: An Analysis of a Dozen Users”

(6) Schwarzenneger (1999). The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. Fireside, NY.

(7) Grant, Jay. “How to Stop PED Use, Steroid Use and Doping in Every Sport.”, 26 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.

(8) “Nutrition for the Athlete.” Nutrition for the Athlete. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.

(9) Fields, Theodore R. “Steroid Side Effects: How to Reduce Corticosteroid Side Effects.” Hospital for Special Surgery. Hospital for Special Surgery, 20 Sept. 2002. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.


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