Performance Enhancing Disaster

Professional athletes using PEDs to gain an unfair advantage in their sport

To excel in athletic competition is admirable. The majority of athletes compete in sports for the chance to prove their abilities. There is often no better feeling for an athlete than proving themselves against peers and rivals. Many athletes compete simply for the adrenaline rush which comes from playing to their potential. Others do so to satisfy a desire for recognition and fame. Unfortunately, that creates some athletes who are determined to win at any cost. These athletes often use that judgment as motivation to use Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). They do this despite evidence that these drugs may cause irreversible side effects.

“Steroids have absolutely no place in sports performance enhancement no matter which level,” said Saint Viator Athletic Trainer Arika Cozzi. “There are some medicinal uses for steroids, but those are only prescribed at very low dosages for certain medical conditions. So again, they have no place in sports performance enhancement.”

The history of PEDs in athletics is long and confusing. Their use began during the 1954 Olympic Games, where Russian weightlifters were given anabolic steroids, in order to raise their testosterone levels. The use of these PEDs would go unregulated until 1975, when the International Olympic Committee ruled to ban steroids.

While PEDs provide an unfair advantage to those using them, much of the confusion regarding steroids in sports results from athletes who need to take these substances to live appropriately. There is something to be said for the few cases in which an athlete must use performance-enhancers.

The United States Anti-Doping Administration (USADA) has long been at the forefront of PED testing in sports—specifically, combat sports such as boxing and Mixed Martial Arts. In early 2014, USADA faced a great dilemma stemming from many MMA fighters who required the use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) to fight.

In February of 2014, USADA would eventually ban these individuals from using TRT, and they were given a choice to retire or to continue fighting without lowered testosterone levels. This is merely one example of the ethical questions that using PEDs in sports brings up. Is it more morally just to allow chemically-enhanced fighters to potentially hurt others, or not allow these fighters to fight, simply for taking substances which they need to live properly?

“Steroids are a huge problem in contact sports. I do believe that some non-contact sports, such as baseball, should not regulate the use of steroids, said senior Luke Delvalle. “There is no enhanced risk of on-field damage through a baseball player taking steroids, and it makes for more entertaining games.

Professional athletes and leagues have not always recognized the issue of PEDs. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the general public realized a widespread problem related to steroids in athletic competitions. Larger-than-life athletes such as Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, and Barry Bonds initiated the public discourse. Concerns are often raised regarding this steroid use and if it influenced future generations who looked up to “steroid era” baseball players as inspirations.

“Growing up a huge baseball fan, I always looked up to the players who had unbelievable stats,” said senior Marcello Lanzi. “As I get older, however, no records set by “steroid era” baseball players are even remotely close to being broken.”

These behemoth icons brought unprecedented attention to the sport of baseball. Through Sosa, McGwire, and Bonds—specifically the monster home runs they would hit daily—the MLB grew by hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the 1990s. The “steroid era” undoubtedly changed the MLB forever. It has also had a profound effect on the sport many viewers once loved so passionately. The factors involved with the subtle decline in public interest in baseball are intertwined with those which characterized the “steroid era.”

It is clear that in athletics, human performance cannot improve endlessly. Sports are no longer merely sports; sport has grown from a friendly competition, and evolved into a business, an industry, and a catalyst for national pride. These facts can lead athletes into doing whatever it takes to ensure victory. While this destructive need to get a leg-up on the competition is something which leads to cheating, it is also some of the reasons we love sports. Without obsessive competition, what fun would sports be? Sports are amazing because of the intense drive that athletes feel to be the best versions of themselves. This, like all other things, comes with positives and negatives. Some may admire athletes for this exact competitive drive which leads them to cheating, while others may condemn them. Given that cheating is, and always will be, intrinsically tied to sports, fans must make the decision as to whether or not they are willing to enjoy sports for their beauties, and overlook their atrocities.