28 April 2010
Male High School Athletes: To use Steroids or not to use Steroids?
Since I was four years old I played competitive basketball and baseball. I always wanted to play
football, but my parents never allowed me to play because of my size. Every year I was the smallest
player on my baseball and basketball teams, but my size was not a disadvantage until I reached high
school. Soon it became more difficult for me to be competitive in practice and in games because I had
been surpassed physically. I went from being a big contributor and both, a starting point guard and
centerfielder, to sitting the bench and getting very little playing time. The coaches kept telling me that I
needed to get stronger and bigger in order to earn my starting spot back. I continued to work hard and
persevere. However, I will admit that my hard work did not pay off as much as I had wanted to. I still
did not play much, despite outworking the starting players in practice. Like many of you, I always
wished there was a way that I could become stronger and faster so that I could contribute once again.
My parents encouraged me to work even harder, day in and day out, and said that my efforts would
eventually pay off. Junior year of high school, my competitive sports career ended despite my work
ethic and enthusiastic attitude. I realize that many of you, much like myself, go through the same
situations in your sporting careers. On the other hand, some of you other athletes have the desire and
physical ability to compete at the college level or even the professionals.
Looking past physical ability, we all share the common goal of becoming bigger and stronger in
the shortest amount of time possible, in order to be the best. According to a recent Pride Survey,
conducted by International Survey Associates in Bowling Green, KY, nearly 5% of male high school
seniors reported using steroids (Kuehn 2301-2303). I realize that 5% is a very small percentage, and that
this 5% were not necessarily high school athletes. However, I strongly believe that even one male high
school steroid user is way too many. I am here today to educate and hopefully influence your future
decisions in athletic pursuits. As male high school athletes, I understand the constant desire to be
stronger and more powerful in order to ensure playing time and recognition from coaches, parents,
teammates, and colleges. These pressures may force you to look for a quick and easy way to become a
better athlete; I know this because I myself have been there. Social interactions in locker rooms have
become the arena for discussions about anabolic steroid use and availability. Hopefully, by the
conclusion of this paper, you understand that the physical benefits of steroid use are miniscule in
comparison to physical, psychological, and social drawbacks. High school athletes, like yourselves, must
be informed about steroids in order to prevent usage because in the end, you are the ones who take the
initiative to begin using the drug. I am also writing this because at your age, you truly do not know what
steroids can do to your bodies. Before I went to college and began studying Health and Exercise
Science, I did not know the web of negative side effects that came with steroid usage. The common
misconception amongst most student athletes is that they cannot succeed without the aid of steroids.
By reading what I have learned, I hope that you do not fall into the same mental trap that a good
percentage of young athletes succumb to.
Anabolic steroids, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, are any group of synthetic
hormones that are derivatives of testosterone, and are sometimes abused by athletes to increase the
size, strength, and endurance of muscle. Besides this definition, we all have conceptions of what
anabolic steroids can do to the human body physically. Furthermore, anabolic steroid use is detrimental
to one’s health both physically and emotionally, and can lead you down a slippery slope of problems.
Athletes in today’s professional sports have shown tremendous strength and size gains that have
improved their performance and made them superstars around the globe. Today, we can look back at
the careers of both Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds and see the physical changes in their bodies.
However, what young athletes like yourself do not see are the adverse, physical side effects. According
to the journal known as Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, “A majority (88-96%) of anabolic
steroid users experience at least one objective side effect.” Of these side effects, 40-54% of users
develop very severe acne. Think about it, do you want to revisit puberty and have even worse acne
covering your entire body? Anabolic steroid usage also leads to testicular shrinking 40-51% of the time.
Do you want to shrink the sex organs that we as men take so much pride in? Do you want to grow
female breasts? I am willing to bet that you do not want to become a part of the 10-34% of steroid
users that do develop breasts. Finally, 34% of all steroid users endure stretch marks and 36% endure
the pain of injection-site infection. In my opinion, half of these common symptoms sound
counterproductive in a sense. Males using high doses of anabolic steroids can have the circulating
estrogen levels typical of women during a normal menstrual cycle (Van Amsterdam, Opperhuizen, and
Hartgens 117-123). A young athlete is attempting to build muscle and stimulate testosterone levels, not
increase the female sex hormone levels. A powerful and intimidating athlete is the thought of as the
“alpha male” or a dominant figure; shrunken testicles essentially make you less of a man, don’t they?
Let me take it one step further by noting that anabolic steroid usage leads to increased incidence of
heart disease, liver failure, kidney failure, lower sperm count, and premature balding (Hartgens, and
Kuipers 513-554). The brutal truth of the matter is that the effect steroids have on the body can leave
you hopeless, with a difficult life battling disease and years of frustration. Unfortunately, the adverse
physical side effects are just the tip of the steroid iceberg.
Many studies have shown that chronic steroid abuse leads to unhealthy mental states. Coaches
love enthusiasm and aggressive play on the field. Players with these attributes are both fun and easy to
coach because, as a leader, you know that you can count on them. However, the effects of anabolic
steroid use can lead to dramatic mood swings. According to a study reported in the journal of Internal
and Emergency Medicine, “. . . several [parts of the brain] that influence behavior and mood
(hypothalamus, limbic system) contain receptors for [anabolic steroids], and drastic changes in the level
of steroids can lead to profound psychological effects.” One of the most notable changes in mental
state involves episodes of aggressiveness and hostility towards others. Personally, I concede that I
naturally become aggressive during the heat of competition, but I have never taken my aggression to
the extent of hurting someone. Many steroid abusers become so aggressive and violent that they find
themselves in physical altercations twice as often as non-steroid users (Barnes, and Miller 167-189).
Another mental disturbance associated with anabolic steroid use is depression. Numerous studies have
shown that the severity of depression is directly correlated to the dosage levels of the steroid. Despite
this fact, mentally unstable athletes are not an appealing asset to coaches, not to mention loved-ones
and teammates. In a worst case scenario of psychological effects, anabolic steroids drastically change
the concentration of stress hormones in the body (Van Amsterdam, Opperhuizen, and Hartgens
117-123). This rapid flux of chemicals can lead to psychotic episodes, hypomania, and impaired
judgment. Now ask yourself this question. Are a few pounds of muscle or even a few minutes of playing
time worth the mental distress that so many steroid users go through? Users of anabolic steroids rarely
seek medical attention for the problems that arise from their use (Foransiero, and Quaglio 289-296).
Therefore, coping with the mental stresses becomes too much for some athletes to handle and some
even resort to suicide.
Looking back, I have introduced you to both the physical side effects and just now, the
psychological side effects. Nonetheless, I must bring in one last group of adverse side effects that really
caught my attention. Let me start off with the definition of a “gateway drug.” As defined by
Healthline.com, a gateway drug is a substance, such as alcohol, whose use is thought to lead to the use
of and dependence on a harder drug, such as heroin or cocaine. In a study titled, Anabolic-Steroid Use
and Other Adolescent Problem Behaviors, researchers surveyed over 16,000 public and private high
school students. The surveys were used to draw connections between steroid usage and other
dangerous activities. Results from this study showed that above 50% of male steroid users admitted
using illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, alcohol, and tobacco (Barnes, and Miller
167-189). I do not have to reiterate the side effects of steroid use because I already made them clear
previously. However, this data suggests that high school steroid users are more susceptible to
developing dependencies on dangerous and illegal drugs. Now instead of just worrying about your
shrunken testicles and your female breasts, a dependency on another drug could make your life even
more troublesome. Getting caught using steroids may only result in a game suspension, but getting
caught using cocaine may result in arrest and time behind bars. This study was not specifically directed
towards athletes, however the staggering number of illicit drug users raises concern.
Today, I am a Sports Medicine student at Colorado State University. I came to college, no longer
a competitive athlete, but still filled with the passion for competition. As a freshman I weighed 135
pounds. Now, as a junior, I have put on 30 pounds of lean muscle mass and am once again successfully
competing with fellow athletes. To this day, I have never taken anabolic steroids or any recreational
drugs and I continue to improve my physical and mental capacities. Trust me; there are natural ways to
enhance your physical capabilities. I got a late start and was not able to reap the benefits until now.
Please, take the advice that I have given you and use it as motivation to naturally enhance your skills.
You can achieve any goal as long as you stay true to your beliefs and put in the effort. Do not let a
coach, a parent, or a teammate discourage you. Work hard, eat healthy, and stay natural!
Barnes, Grace M., and Kathleen E. Miller. "Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Use and Other Adolescent
Problem Behaviors: Rethinking the Male Athlete Assumption." Sociological Perspectives 15.1
(2002): 167-189. Web. 3 May 2010.
Foransiero, Anna, and Gianluca Quaglio. "Anabolic steroids: dependence and complications of chronic
use." Internal and Emergency Medicine 4.4 (2009): 289-296. Web. 4 May 2010.
Hartgens, Fred, Antoon Opperhuizen, and Jan Van Amsterdam. "Adverse Health Effects of Anabolic-
Androgenic Steroids." Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 57.1 (2010): 117-123. Web. 6
Hartgens, Fred, and Harm Kuipers. "Effects of Androgenic-Anabolic Steroids in Athletes." Sports Med
34.8 (2004): 513-554. Web. 4 May 2010.
Kuehn, Bridget M. "Teen Steroid, Supplement Use Targeted: Officials Look to Prevention and Better
Oversight." Journal of the American Medical Association 302.21 (2009): 2301-2303. Web. 3 May