Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports

For most professional athletes, winning is everything. In fact, most professional athletes find the drive to win insatiable. Further, apart from the satisfaction that comes with personal accomplishment, most of those in professional sports are usually under significant pressure to win medals for their countries. It is under such circumstances that professional athletes contend with a fierce desire to use performance-enhancing drugs. However, the use of such drugs carries with itself significant risks. In this text, I explore why performance enhancing drugs are bad in professional sports.

Use of Performance-enhancing Drugs in Professional Sports: A Brief History

Human beings have been known to engage in competitive sports from time immemorial. The competitive nature of professional sports and the presence of significant rewards for winners have always pushed participants to the edge in an attempt to gain a competitive edge over other competitors. Indeed, by his very nature, a human being is constantly seeking a competitive advantage over adversaries (real or perceived). It is important to note that there exists some evidence suggesting that drugs believed to enhance the performance of individuals in one way or the other have been in existence since ancient times. Indeed, steroids are believed to have been used widely in Ancient Greece (Robinson, 191). This was most particularly during the early Olympic Games. However, performance-enhancers being used then were not known as steroids at the time. Some accounts show that to enhance their performance, athletes ingested a number of substances believed to have a positive impact on performance. These substances included but were not limited to sheep testicles (crushed) and selected herbs. Sheep testicles are known to contain significant levels of testosterone, a hormone closely associated with enhanced performance.

However, when it comes to their modern day usage, performance-enhancing drugs were being widely used by body builders in the early 1950s. Indeed, it is believed that the sterling performance of Soviet body builders at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 was partly based on their usage of performance-enhancing drugs including but not limited to testosterone. Soon after, a special drug referred to as Dianabol was developed by John Ziegler. This drug soon become popular with those who were seeking a competitive edge in professional sports, especially bodybuilding. Among the most notable athletes who have admitted to having used performance-enhancing drugs in the past include Arnold Schwarzenegger (Rosen, 41). In his own words, Schwarzenegger is on record as having said "steroids were helpful to me in maintaining muscle size while on a strict diet in preparation for a contest" (Rosen, 41). However, it is important to note that Schwarzenegger's use of the drugs was a time when the same were still legal. It was not until 1968 that the World Health Organization received an official complaint in regard to the use of steroids. Consequently, anabolic steroids were banned by the International Olympic Council and this lead to similar bans by quite a number of professional sport leagues.

Performance-enhancing Drugs: The Risks

One of the questions that have been asked in relation to the widespread usage of performance-enhancing drugs is: does the pressure from the society push athletes to try performance-enhancing drugs or is the desire to win so overwhelming that athletes overlook the risks associated with performance-enhancing drugs? There are also those who believe that double standards are applied when it comes to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. For instance, why should performance-enhancers be allowed in matters sexual to heighten sexual experience while at the same time they are denied to athletes keen on enhancing their performance? It is however important to note that in most cases, these concerns are largely misguided and fueled by sheer lack of knowledge on the nature and usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

It can be noted that over time, quite a number of medical practitioners have observed that the fame and recognition that comes with winning in professional sports through any means necessary including the use of performance-enhancing drugs isn't worth the risk. Though the potential benefits are apparent in terms of monetary gain and recognition, the use of performance-enhancing drugs including but not limited to stimulants and creatine, diuretics, erythropoietin, anabolic steroids etc. poses significant health risks which I will use below to demonstrate why performance enhancing drugs are bad in professional sports. However, apart from the heath risks posed by these drugs, it is also important to note that other adverse effects including damage to reputation abound. Further, the use of performance-enhancing drugs in some cases could inform quite a number of legal sanctions.

1. Impact on Health

Anabolic Steroids

These are some of the most common performance-enhancing drugs taken by professional athletes to either enhance their muscle strength and/or enhance their muscle mass. It can be noted that in this case, testosterone is the body's primary anabolic steroid hormone. Basically, testosterone is used in its modified or synthetic form by most athletes to help them recover faster from injuries occasioned by vigorous training. It has been noted in various quarters that when anabolic steroids are taken in high doses, they do bring about some adverse physical side effects. These side effects may include an increased risk of infertility, shrunken testicles, acne (severe), risk of hypertension, tumors and liver abnormalities etc. In an attempt to mask their use of steroids, most athletes have been known to take "designer steroids." In basic terms, these steroids are largely synthetic and they are manufactured discreetly with some modifications being made so as to ensure they are not detected during screening. Based on the clandestine way in which they are manufactured, these "designer steroids are not subject to rigorous tests by the Food and Drug Administration and other relevant authorities to ascertain their safety. As such these modified anabolic steroids pose a wide range of dangers to professional athletes who use them.


This is yet another common form of performance-enhancing drug used by professional athletes. In its natural form, this hormone has its production taking place in testes, ovaries and adrenal glands. In this context, it can be noted that andro's availability is usually on a prescription basis. However, the same is also available for sale in most outlets as a supplement. It is important to note that although andro is often touted as being beneficial to training athletes especially when it comes to quick recovery, the same has been banned in the U.S. As a performance-enhancing drug. According to Mayo Clinic Staff, the use of androstenedione carries with itself significant health risks (N.p.). These risks include but are not limited to testicles shrinking (in men), acne as well as a decreased sperm production in men. Further, supplemental androstenedione exposes its users to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack based on its tendency to lower or decrease the levels of 'good' cholesterol.

Human Growth Hormone

Another commonly used performance-enhancing drug, this growth hormone is believed to enhance performance and muscle mass. Mayo Clinic Staff observes that in a way, the use of the hormone without a prescription occasions adverse effects including cardiomyopathy, carpal tunnel syndrome and an impairment of the body's ability to regulate glucose (N.p.).


Used widely in the treatment of anemia amongst those exhibiting severe kidney diseases, this hormone also has widespread usage in professional sports as a performance-enhancing drug. According to Mayo Clinic Staff, those who are most commonly known to use the hormone are endurance athletes (N.p.). Some of the hormone's side effects include pulmonary edema as well as an increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.


Commonly branded 'masking' agents for their ability to dilute urine hence effectively helping those in professional sports pass drug tests, these drugs expose athletes to a number of health risks including heatstroke, drops in blood pressure, deficiency in potassium as well as muscle cramps.


Identified as a common performance-enhancing drug by the Mayo Clinic Staff, this compound helps in enhancing the release of energy from the muscles (N.p.). However, the main risk in the usage of the compound lies with its mode of production. In this case, FDA considers it as a food given that it is essentially a supplement. Thus its production is not necessarily in conformity with the same standards applied when it comes to the production of conventional drugs. This exposes it to contamination. Other side effects associated with the same include weight gain as well as stomach and muscle cramps.

2. Ethical Concerns

Apart from medical reasons, there also exists other arguments as to why performance-enhancing drugs are bad in professional sports. In this case, those who are against the use of the same are of the opinion that gaining an unfair advantage over competitors (by using performance-enhancing drugs) is largely unethical. The reasoning in this case is that for the most part, other athletes are competing legitimately. Hence should a professional athlete win a competition based on performance enhancers, such a win is not legitimate. The idea is that all professional athletes should be allowed to begin…

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