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Chapter 3



Table of Contents

Who Takes Steroids and Why

Nowadays, it is not only powerlifters or major league players who may be taking in anabolic steroids. Steroids have gone mainstream commencing in the 1990's. Famous actors, models and other popular figures may be using these controlled substances to enhance their appearance and maintain health as they age. Your accountant, lawyer, doctor or your next door neighbor could also be a steroid user who uses anabolics to multiply his efforts in the gym, and gain an appealing physique with less time and effort spent in the gym.

Steroids were developed in the 1930's with the goal of treating hypogonadism, but since their conception so much has changed not only in their application, but also in the way the public view these controversial substances. In this part of the book, you will learn of the non-medical use of these drugs – who takes them and why they take them in the first place.

Undoubtedly, anabolics are now being used indiscriminately by misinformed on uninformed individuals. This widespread abuse is further causing problems, further inflaming the already hot issues against steroids because of incidents of harmful and even fatal consequences of steroids abuse. The entertainment industry and the sports world have been under a different limelight for many years now. They are the primary suspects in the use of these drugs.

Steroid Role Models?

One recent steroid-related issue happened in January 2008, when a raid of a Steroid compounding pharmacy revealed documents leading to several entertainment figures. Singers Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, Wyclef Jean and Timbaland were found to have used the pharmacy for things like HGH and Steroids. Even author/producer Tyler Perry was mentioned in the article published by Albany's Times Union. Allegedly, Blige received the human growth hormone Jentropin, touted as an anti-aging substance, and oxandrolone. Said compounds were delivered to her at the Bevely Hills Hotel. Her spokesperson, however, denied the allegation. The other individuals involved have refused to comment on the issue.

Model Janice Dickinson has admitted to have used steroids. In an interview, she said she was introduced to these drugs through Sylvester Stallone who, according to Dickinson, was also a steroid user. Dickinson and Stallone had been engaged but the relationship ended with the controversial paternity test of Dickinson's child.

Now the question is why do they do it? Below is an unofficial classification of steroids users, which can sort of explain why people resort to steroids.

  • Regular people who want to be attractive (at least at the physical level). Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has the right to look fit – right? Non-athletic people seek steroids as weight-control and body fat-reduction regimen.
  • Athletes who compete for medals or money. These are men and women who want to be faster, stronger and more effective competitors in the chosen field. Their philosophy? “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!”, join the steroid users, that is. It is this small section of steroid users that have made and kept steroids illegal for leisure non-competitive users.
  • Bodybuilders who want to have bigger and meaner muscles. Of course, it goes without saying that Steroids have been a part of bodybuilding since the 60's. Nowadays the demand on professional bodybuilders to just get bigger and leaner has driven many to use substances considered more dangerous than Steroids. The one substance attributed with creating the bodies of today's muscle monsters is insulin. It should also be noted that the abuse of insulin could potentially kill the user in a matter of hours and not years as is the case with steroid abuse.
  • Celebrities i.e. models, actors, singers, other celebrities, whose capital is their looks. These people are usually the type who wants to defy gravity (who wants to see a lead role with a sagging body part?). They also need to defy the aging process. Their philosophy? There's no such thing as aging gracefully.

Now and then you see such an extreme transformation of Hollywood stars. Take for example Ryan Reynolds. You see him as this lanky, likable guy cracking jokes in Two Men and a Girl. Then you see him in the remake of Amityville Horror and you ask “Is this the same guy?!” All of a sudden, Reynolds has turned into a mean, muscled dark character on the horror flick. It's really a 180-degree character turn-around!

And he's just one of the many Hollywood actors who get beefed up real fast during prep for their roles. Edward Norton did a dramatic re-working of his entire physique in American History X as did Christian Bale in Batman Begins. Bale reportedly gained 100 pounds in six months.

Does such drastic metamorphosis (in some cases it takes only 12-16 weeks) happen solely due to, shall we say, natural means (i.e. determined training and adherence to a bodybuilding diet)? Or is it made possible through some more than natural routes (i.e. steroids)?

It is a consensus among experts that the body has a limited capacity to produce muscle; or to lose it, for that matter. Under the most of ideal conditions, you can expect to gain 0.25 – 0.50 pounds of dry muscle tissue per week. So that translates to about one or two pounds per month of muscle gain. That's natural chemistry working for you.

But natural body chemistry is sometimes being overriden by the use of anabolic substances. Hollywood celebs and their counterparts in other areas of the entertainment industry have been known to use every mean possible to achieve the looks that will get them paid. And this can be partly blamed on the media. At present, media plays an important part in how members of society view themselves. When an audience is being bombarded with images of an on-screen superhero; it is not expected to see a 14-year old gawky kid suddenly wanting to be transformed into some beefed up, ass-kicking character. Adolescents particularly are at the impressionable stage when they can be easily influenced by what they see in the media. Singers, actors, models are becoming role models for many young people nowadays.

A 2005 study, which surveyed 6,212 girls and 4,237 boys aged 12 to 18, appeared in the journal Pediatrics, and has reported the following findings.

  • Based on the nationwide survey of more than 10,000 adolescents, subjects report a high rate of concern about their physical appearance and as a result one in eight boys and one in 12 girls reported using products to improve their appearance, muscle mass and strength.
  • About 5% of male teens and 2% of females use potentially harmful products at least once a week to improve their body image. The products include injectable steroids among others.

Clearly, the research illustrates that the widespread use of anabolics by American teens is not because of the lure of the steroids per se, but because of the societal pressure to look thin and/or well-toned as dictated through the media. The statement of Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota and author of I'm Like, So Fat! Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World, precisely pinpoints the root of the problem: as Americans overall become fatter and eat themselves further away from the thin and toned body that society considers ideal, teens increasingly are turning to extreme behaviors to achieve what often is unachievable.

Juiced Up Athletes: Past, Present, and Future of Sports?

Nothing beats the role steroids play in the sports arena. Recently, there have been two terms that are being applied to steroids use in the world of sports – doping and cyborgization.

Doping is the term used when athletes take in compounds that purposely enhance their performance. Doping is not exclusively used for athletes; it also refers to steroid use by animals engaged in sporting events such as horse racing and polo. Cyborgization refers not just to the use of performance-enhancing drugs but through other means such as prosthesis (Tommy John surgery) and body modification. In this book, the focus is on doping.

You could trace back the introduction of anabolics in the sporting world during the 1950's, although some performance-enhancing substances have been in use in competitive sports since antiquity. Officially, it started with the Russian and East German athletes in 1954. In the Olympic Games, many controversial cases have contributed to this organization's anti-steroids stance. It has been noticed that during this time there have been no other reports of steroids use outside the Olympic sphere. When the IOC issued a ban on anabolic steroids, other sports organizations would take the same initiative.

Below are some notable doping events in the history of world sports.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, seven-time Mr. Olympia and governor of the state of California, has admitted that he used steroids during his bodybuilding career. He won his first Mr. Olympia title reportedly with the aid of Zeigler's Dianabol pills.
  • Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of the gold medal he won in the 100 meter-event in the 1988 Summer Olympics because he tested positive on the use of steroids when stanozolol was detected in his urine. Later on he admitted using other substances like Dianabol, cypionate, Furazabol, and HGH.
  • Forfeiture of Olympic medals also resulted at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Russians Olga Danilova and Larisa Lazutina, and Spain's Johann Muhlegg, referred to as the “SoHo trio”, were caught during routine doping tests. The name “SoHo” stands for the Soldier Hollow, the Nordic skiing venue where the three athletes competed.
  • Major League Baseball (MLB) star Barry Bonds was indicted on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice apparently because of his testimony before a federal grand jury in 2003. The jury panel was investigating reports of illegal steroid manufacturing and distribution by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO). The indictment was filed on November 16, 2007. The BALCO incident was such a huge deal that its repercussions are still being felt today in professional sports.
  • Tour de France champion cyclist Lance Armstrong was also being dogged by controversies involving use of illicit substances. In September 2006, several of his former teammates have openly admitted to taking EPO during the 1999 Tour de France. There has been no outright implication of Armstrong in said illegal activity.
  • Former baseball outfielder and designated hitter Jose Canseco caused major ripples in the major league with his tell-all book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big. The book is an autobiographical account of his personal relationships and professional dealings. In Juice, he confessed that he was a steroid user and did not leave it at that. He named names – big names – in the pro baseball including Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, and Juan Gonzalez. According to Canseco, the said athletes were his fellow steroid users. Another staggering revelation on this book is that 85% of major league athletes took steroids, a claim which is yet to be substantiated.

In 2008, Canseco published his sequel to the bestseller Juice. Entitled Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and The Battle to Save Baseball, Canseco's second serving has implicated still another set of MLB players prominent of whom are Alex 'A-Rod' Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr.

  • The Mitchell Report, a.k.a. Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball, is a 409-page investigative document released on December 13, 2007. This is a 20-month inquiry conducted by the former US Senator George J. Mitchell into the use of anabolics and HGH in MLB. The report has come up with 89 MLB players who have allegedly used illicit compounds.

Let's Get 'Clearer' With the BALCO Fiasco

Since the BALCO Affair is considered the most controversial of all steroid-related controversies, a more in-depth look of the whole thing is required.

It started with an anonymous phone call to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in June 2003. The caller spoke of a couple of athletes using steroids. Immediately, two things caught USADA's attention. First, the caller said the drug could pass detection. Second, the name Victor Conte. Victor Conte was the founder and owner of BALCO, an American sports medicine and nutrition company. Also, he has ties with professional sports organizations and popular sports personalities. The caller said Conte was the source of the undetectable steroid.

The whistle-blower was the American sprint coach Trevor Graham. Soon, the USADA would not have to rely on hearsay alone. Trevor brought hard evidence. It was a syringe with traces of a substance creatively nicknamed The Clear, which was later identified as tetrahydrogestrinone or THG.

This substance has been considered a designer drug which has an affinity to both the androgen and progesterone receptors but not to estrogen. The genius behind this new drug was Patrick Arnold, an organic chemist who graduated from the University of New Haven in Connecticut. This was not the first time that Arnold would be in the spotlight since he had been under scrutiny for launching androstenedione or ando to the supplement market in 1996. In the case of THG, the substance was likely disguised and marketed as a dietary supplement, but the FDA stated that it did not meet the official definition of what a dietary supplement was. Rather, THG closely resembled the two existing anabolic steroids gestrinone and trenbolone. In short, The Clear was mainly to enhance the performance of athletes in the playing field. It was also known to induce euphoria in users.

On September 3, 2003, the composite team of Internal Revenue Service, FDA, San Mateo Narcotics Task Force, and USADA conducted a search at BALCO facilities and came up with more evidence – containers of steroids, HGH and lists of the company's customers. Subsequently, Greg Anderson's place was also raided and authorities found out incriminating material – steroids, name lists, dosage regimens, and $60,000 in cold, hard cash. Anderson was a weight trainer also connected with the BALCO incident.

The lists generated familiar names which included MLB players Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Benito Santiago, Jeremy Giambi, Bobby Estalella, Armando Rios. Also athletes Kevin Toth and C.J. Hunter (shot putters); Dwain Chambers, Tim Montgomery, Kelli White (track and field); Shane Mosley (boxing); and Tammy Thomas (cycling). From the National Football League (NFL) roster were Oackland Raiders, including Bill Romanowski, Tyrone Wheatley, Barrett Robbins, Chris Cooper and Dana Stubblefield.

As of 2008, there is still no ending to this 'juicy affair' (pun intended). Some may have served their time in prison or were put under probation, but others still await court decisions. While Patrick Arnold has already served his three months in Morgantown Federal Correctional institution, jury deliberations are still ongoing regarding cyclist Tammy Thomas' perjury case. Thomas is facing five counts of lying to a grand jury which took place in 2003.

Meanwhile Conte, whose probation ended in March 2008, is now planning to come up with a no-holds-barred book which promises to reveal everything about the BALCO controversy.

Steroids and Athletes: A Risky Partnership that can kill a career

Why do athletes take steroids and consequently take the risk of being caught red-handed, as illustrated by the BALCO scandal?

The quick and simple answer to that is: to have an edge over their competitors. It does not matter if you're into an amateur or professional league; the bottom line is - you need to win to make the big money. Everybody loves a winner, and rarely does anyone want to be associated with the loser; or more to the point, nobody wants to be the loser.

And so athletes rely on steroids primarily to enhance their performance and therefore improve their chances of winning over other competitors. As you well know, in the world of Olympic and professional sports a nanosecond, an inch, or a mere gram could separate the winner from the loser. Everything is a close fight; and that's why athletes seize every means to ensure them of recognition in their chosen playing field.

This is why steroids use has become a moral issue in athletics. It is said to cause unfair advantage for the user. The ethical issues involved in this kind of activity have prompted the International Olympic Committee and other sporting associations worldwide to ban steroids and other substances deemed by the organization as performance enhancers. Notable sports organizations such as National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB) all have their own anti-steroid programs. Still, these organizations are being pressured by the American government for their lax policies regarding imposition and punishment of use and abuse of these drugs.

The NBA, for example, had taken some criticisms for adapting a 'lame' punishment scheme. A mere five-day suspension on first violation is puny, say lawmakers. But this all changed when the Drug Free Sports Act was passed in 2005. This Act directs the secretary of commerce “to issue regulations requiring testing for steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for certain sports associations engaged in interstate commerce.”

In said Act, 'professional sports associations' includes the American MLB, NBA, NFL, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, the Arena Football League, and any other league of association that organizes professional athletic competitions as to be determined by the secretary.'

The following are included in the Act:

  • Mandatory random testing in which the athlete shall be tested at least once a year, and that the athlete shall not be notified in advance of the test.
  • Tests shall be undertaken by neutral parties, not affiliated with the concerned sports association.
  • The list of substances the athlete shall be tested for shall be those that are enumerated in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and/or other performance-enhancing drugs for which testing is applicable and reasonable as determined by the secretary of commerce.
  • A positive test shall have the following penalties: 1) Suspension from the professional sports association for a minimum of two years for his first violation; permanent suspension for second violation. All suspensions include loss of pay for the period of suspension. 2) Disclosure of the athlete's name to the public.

The Act is the end-result of a series of highly publicized congressional hearings. The other steroids-related bill is the Clean Sports Act of 2005.

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Lev Butlerov holds a Masters Degree in Biology, he is NASM Certified, ISSA Certified, The National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF) certified and is currently working on his American Council on Exercise (ACE) certificate. From Lev: I love bodybuilding and the biology, chemistry of the industry. It's my hobby and my love. I have done multiple bodybuilding shows, 2 in Germany in the past 5 years. I hope everyone enjoys my articles. In 2021 (going into 2022, 2023) I will be working on my PhD thesis in physiotherapy and biochemistry, I hope to have some of the bits published here.

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