Man has an innate need to excel in whatever he does. Even if he is aware of his limited capabilities, man has endeavored to reach perfection and to be perceived to be at the pinnacle of whatever field he has chosen to be in. in the same manner, sportsmen have tried and tried again through time to excel in their sport and to be seen as unbeatable. Given that sports are a highly competitive field, the need to be better, stronger, quicker, and more powerful than others are seen to be highly recommended traits.
Consequently, athletes are put on a high pedestal in today’s society and this is the reason why some athletes feel the added pressure with some succumbing to drugs and alcohol use to enhance their performance. Athletes feel that they always need to perform at a higher level, for several reasons such as making more money and not disappointing fans. It appears that some athletes feel that they need to enhance their skills with performance-enhancing drugs. Even if the athletes are aware of the consequences of taking such performance enhancement drugs, some do not feel these are enough to deter them from using the drugs.
Should performance-enhancing drugs, specifically anabolic steroids, be allowed to be used in professional sports? Or should society demand that athletes stick to the natural way of Performance enhancement with a good diet and exercise? Society’s demand would require even stricter rules, regulations, testing, and consequences than currently exist. This would include athletes at any age level and into the professional world.
In an attempt to understand the possible reasons for the use of performance-enhancing drug use, we’ll explore their perceived benefits and documented benefits.
Drugs in Use and Their Effects
There are various types of drugs that are and have been used by sportsmen either during competitions or during training to boost their sessions and to prolong them. These drugs can be classified into several groups depending on their effect on an athlete’s body. Hence sportsmen can use performance-enhancing drugs as a means to build mass and strength faster, to stimulate, to mask pain, to mask drug use, to reduce weight, to increase oxygen delivery to muscles, or as relaxants after stressful workouts. (Freudenrich)
There are, therefore, a plethora of drugs available in the market that athletes have been using legally or illegally for short or long-term perceived benefits. Drugs that have been classified as those which result in instant gain include Caffeine, Arginine, BCAAs, — leucine, isoleucine and valine, and beta-alanine whereas, those which give slower but steadier gains include, glutamine, betaine and conjugated linoleic acid, all of which have their particular uses and effects. (Brown and Stoppani)
The Case against Drugs
Performance-enhancing drugs have been a source of controversy since time immemorial. According to (Millar):
“Drugs have been used from pre-Christian times and even in mythology, performers used unfair tactics. In the Iliad, Homer described how Odysseus implored Athena to trip Ajax, showing that even the Greeks of the old world were aware of the cheating. Voy [ 4 ] recorded the use of brandy and wine concoctions with mushrooms to help performance. Athletes have been accused of drug use and are the reason why drug tests have been introduced to catch any sportsmen resorting to banned drugs.”
Although there are plenty of reasons why sportsmen have thought it best to use such drugs, the case against their use is just as strong.
There are many effects apart from harmful health effects that have created such a controversy. Even though users perceive using drugs to enhance performance the same as using a better model of car to compete in a race or better shoes in an obstacle race, the opposition argues that a better model of car is in no way similar to a human body. After all even better car models might lose if the racer is not talented enough or hasn’t trained properly. Whereas drugs overcome the defaults of the sportsman and instead of focusing on developing a skill set focus on spending enough money and time on drugs which can make any Tom, Dick or Harry legible to compete and be successful in a match. According to (Dixon) promoting the use of these drugs can be detrimental to the development of young, aspiring sportsmen who instead of concentrating on enhancing their performance will focus more on getting financial support to get access to expensive performance-enhancing drugs that succeed. Therefore sports will become less of a physical test of competency and a source of entertainment, health and pleasure, but will become a falsely glorified world of drugs.
Moreover, according to (Humphrys) the world of sports will lose charm and money when people. When audiences realize that athletics is now only about whom takes the most effective amount of drugs rather than a competition in skill, the field will not be as interesting and entertaining as before and audiences will stop putting in so much money in viewing them.
Among these harmful effects are the much controversial and highlighted issues of health.
Pampel, in his book Drugs and Sports discusses the harmful effects that the use of drugs can have. One of the problems with performance-enhancing drugs is that aggressive campaigning of anabolic or muscle-building steroids results in their being used by amateur players who have just begun their careers to emulate sports field superstars and jumpstart their careers. In the contemporary world of today where sports stars are no less than celebrities and have a huge global fan following, young athletes, in looking for ways to boost their own performance and to take as many opportunities as can be availed, resort to excessive use of these drugs which eventually leads to harmful health effects.
Taking for example the mass and strength-building anabolic steroids such as Dihydrotestosterone which can be taken in either a pill or syringe form, the side effects from its excessive use can result in infertility or breast development and baldness. This is because anabolic steroids imitate the male hormone, testosterone which, when used in strong concentrations can cause such damages in males. In females, the side effects can include the likes of thicker hair growth, deeper vocals, infertility and interference in the menstrual cycle. (Freudenrich)
The Case for Drugs
As points are arguing against drug use some cases favor the use of such drugs, sidelining any possible defects that use of such drugs might have.
Firstly, there is the argument of drug use and abuse. Performance enhancement drugs if used in the right quantity at the right times and in the right places can indeed be beneficial to sportsmen who will be able to train and perform better. Authors such as (Karinch) and (Brown and Stoppani) have published books on how to take a balanced supplement diet.
Moreover, in an article by (Brown and Stoppani), the authors have listed the benefits of using drugs such as caffeine. The article states that investing in 200-400 milligrams of caffeine about one hour before workouts will increase performance as stated:
“In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2006, subjects who took a caffeine supplement an hour before working out increased their one-rep maximum on the bench press by about five pounds — without any extra training.
Taking caffeine can also result in longer workouts. As Korean scientists demonstrated in a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology in 2001, subjects were able to exercise longer after having taken a caffeine supplement, primarily because caffeine escorts fat out of fat cells and into the bloodstream, where it can be burned for energy.” (Brown and Stoppani)
Furthermore, in the case of drugs that have a slower but steadier effect, Betaine promotes cardiovascular health in the long run as it is derived from vegetables. Also, it helps protect tissues in the liver and joints so that workouts become more meaningful and less painful. (Brown and Stoppani)
Proponents of drugs such as (Millar) have argued that drug use which is seen to have the potential to cause a loss in sponsorship support and viewership will have an opposite effect where viewers will tune in to see record-breaking performances and athletes that are beyond imagination in their skills and competencies. More so it will increase sponsorship support as companies will clamor to bring the most popular athletes that outperform rivals on board.
Thirdly, the overdose of anything and everything is harmful. Overindulging with one substance will eventually cause a deteriorating effect on health as the balance is the key to success. Overeating substances with protein can cause protein accumulation and can be harmful to health and in the same way over indulging in using drugs to help in improving performance hurts a person’s well-being. Hence it is not so much the use of drugs but its overuse that causes the grievances suffered by many athletes who still have a long way to go in learning how to be successful.
Lastly, the case in favor of drug use indicates that along with athletes being able to train harder and perform better, the drugs will also enable them to reach a peak in their careers that have not been achieved previously using the natural ability. Even though drug use is seen as unethical, it can be argued that it helps supplement rather than replace natural ability and talent.
As can be observed from the discussions above, the cases for and against drug use are strong where believers are yet to be convinced of the possible long-term defects of these.
However one can observe that even though media and sports associations have been actively discouraging the use of performance enhancement drugs and have banned some outright while introducing limited restrictions on the rest, the use by athletes and sportsmen has been on the rise. The increased incidence of authorities finding out whether or not a player has been using drugs could also be because increasingly complicated methods of drug testing have been made available, but it could also be due to the increased use of energy-boosting drugs by sportsmen, who to cope with a busy lifestyle may feel that resorting to steroids is the only option available to them.
While one can only argue in favor or against this issue, there are some recommendations, which if put in place by authorities can limit drug use so that they are only beneficial to athletes while minimizing risks from their use.
Therefore, authorities should look into this matter gravely and have rules and regulations that are more specific and do not give way to any loopholes or ambiguity that can be manipulated by athletes. Firstly, aspiring players should not be allowed the use of steroids whether in training or during games as they are the ones, who are most prone to misusing them, although this will be a difficult endeavor, misuse needs to be checked at its roots.
Secondly, the quantity of intake should be limited as judges appropriate by standards, rather than banning it completely.
Last but not the least, a campaign just as aggressive as the ones for drug use should be launched to enlist the side effects and harmful effects of these drugs on a player’s health and their consequent effect on athletes’ health.
Thus drug use is not a sin but it has ethical considerations that need to be addressed before a step as categorical as banning them is taken.
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- Brown, Jordana and Jim Stoppani.(2008) Invest in Growth. Flex 26 (7), 214-220.
- Dixon, N. Performance-Enhancing Drugs, Paternalism, Meritocracy, and Harm of Sport. Journal of Social Philosophy 39(2), 246-268.
- Freudenrich, Craig.(2000) How Performance-enhancing Drugs Work. Web.
- Humphrys, J.(2003) Let’s legalise drugs in sport and see what happens. The Sunday Times.
- Karinch, M.( 2002) Diets Designed for Athletes : How to Combine Foods, Fluids, and Supplements for Maximum Training and Performance. Champaign: Human Kinetics Publishers,.
- Marzilli, A.( 2008) Drugs and Sports. New York: Facts on File Incorporated.
- Millar, AP. (2007) Should Drug Testing be Banned. The Doping Journal 4(1).
- Monroe, J. (2004) Steroids, Sports, and Body Image: The Risks of Performance-Enhancing Drugs. Berkeley Heights: Enslow Publishers, Incorporated.
- Mottram, D. R. (2006) Drugs in Sport. London: Taylor & Francis, Inc.
- Pampel, F. C.(2007) Drugs And Sports. New York: Facts on File Incorporated.
- Schmidt, K. (2007) Just Say yes to Steroids.
- Waddington, I., & Smith, A.( 2008) An Introduction to Drugs in Sports-Addicted. New York: Routledge.
- William C., Rhoden. (2007) In Fans Tolerate Doping, and Media Remain Riveted. The New York Times.