Winning the Steroid Battle

Win. Win. Win. There is no losing, just winning, at all costs. Get bigger, get stronger, hit harder, run faster longer, DESTROY YOUR COMPETITION.

This is the message of contemporary sports in America. Winning is everything, losing is unacceptable. Winners go on to become famous and sign million dollar contracts, losers watch them on television.

With all of the societal pressure young athletes are faced with to succeed, be it from the media, parents, coaches or peers, it is no wonder that a surprising number turn to illegal performance enhancing drugs to give them an edge over their competition.

According to a 2007 report from the Mayo Clinic:

  • About 3 million people use anabolic steroids

  • One in four steroid users started as a teenager, and

  • One out of every 10 is a teenager.

If these numbers are correct (and precise statistics are, of course, impossible to come by, given that steroid use is illegal), an estimated 300,000 teenagers use illegal anabolic steroids, and the number is likely greater.

Steroid use by star athletes is rampant

Many of our nation's sports stars have been implicated in steroid use. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Justin Gatlin, Eric Gagne, Troy Glaus, Mark McGwire, Raphel Palmero, Shawn Merriman, Marion Jones ... the list goes on and on. So why is it, exactly, that we should be incredibly disappointed with these people? Why am I saddened to see the name of my childhood hero, Mo Vaughan, in the Mitchell report? Why are steroids such a big deal?

300,000 teenagers, that's why.

Three hundred thousand kids using drugs that, while they may give them the boost they are looking for, have life-altering side effects.

Granted, anabolic steroids do enhance performance (which, of course, is why they are taken):

  • Increased recovery rate/less muscle breakdown

  • Improved muscle building capabilities

  • Fat loss

  • Added aggression

  • Improved strength and endurance

I have witnessed firsthand what steroids can do to a young man. Let me just write that the no-neck look is out.

Dangers of steroids

Here's a partial list of the over seventy well known increased health risks users of anabolic steroids run:

  • Acne

  • Cramps

  • Muscle and tendon injury

  • Sterility

  • Insomnia

  • Cancer (liver, kidney, prostate, cervical, endometrial, etc.)

  • Growth of breasts (in men)

  • Trembling

  • Pain during urination

  • Jaundice

  • Skin discoloration

  • Decreased breast size (in women)

  • Amenorrhea (halted menstrual cycle)

  • Decreased testicle size

  • Nose bleeds

  • HIV and Hepatitis (needle use)

  • Psychosis and mood swings ("roid rage" was a major factor cited in wrestler Chris Benoit's recent double parricide/suicide)

  • Weakened immune system

  • Increase of "male" features in women

  • Stunted growth in children

  • Liver, cardiovascular and kidney disease

  • Hair loss

  • Negative Cholesterol effects

  • Heart attacks and stroke

  • Increase risk of dying after head trauma (such as a concussion)

The last risk on our list is


Preventing use is key

Is winning worth it? Clearly not. Steroids, however, have legitimate medical uses and are not about to disappear. How then, can we stop our kids from using illegal steroids?

  • Be proactive, talk to your kids about the risks! If they are old enough, tell them the horror stories.

  • Become educated about the visible signs of steroid use and be on the lookout! Steroid use is more common than you might think.

  • Don't ignore the problem. If you suspect your child is using steroids, seek help immediately before it's too late.

  • Tell your child about the stiff price he could pay for illegal steroid: up to a year in jail and a minimum $1,000 dollar fine.