The use of steroids in the sports world is not new in present times These anabolic/androgenic steroids as they are precisely called belong to a group known as ergogenic or ’performance-enhancing,’drugs which is why the are so widely used by athletes. The medical steroids are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, a natural male hormone, the testosterone and may have therapeutic value in some cases. Ideally the terms ‘Anabolic’ means ‘growing or building’ and ‘Androgenic’ means ‘masculinizing’.
Steroids have been around sports for many decades now. It was Dr. Ruzicka who invented steroids in the early 1930s for medical purposes particularly to fight conditions like cancer and AIDS. However they did not reach the sports industry until the late 1970s when athletes were tested positive for using these substances during the Olympics. With time, steroid abuse spread much beyond the Olympics in the 1970s and 1980s. It prominently came into light when in 1983, ten track and field athletes were disqualified from the Olympics for steroid abuse.[ “A survey in the 70s explains that five American universities showed that nearly fifteen percent of college athletes had been abused steroids for myriad purposes. By the time it was mid 1980’s, there were 20% of college athletes who were found abusing steroids. The percentages in the mid 1970’s however was much less with steroids abuse in Arizona high schools being just 1% over all and with 4% of athletes admitting steroid use then.”
Athletes along with some coaches and trainers who have administered anabolic steroids have certainly reported increase in lean muscle mass, strength as well as endurance. Some athletes have also asserted that anabolic steroids also aid in recovery from injuries.
There are several types of anabolic steroids available, with myriad combinations of both anabolic as well as androgenic properties. The non-medical use of anabolic steroids is illegal and banned by most major sports organizations. The International Olympics Committee has listed 17 anabolic steroids and related compounds which are to be strictly prohibited by the sports fraternity.
In January 2005, Anabolic Steroid Control Act was amended with the Controlled Substance Act which clearly mentioned the names of those anabolic steroids and prohormones whose possession would be considered a federal crime.
How Do Anabolic Steroids function?
As explained anabolic steroids are testosterone derivatives which help the body in the metabolization of ingested proteins and the synthesis of skeletal muscles as well. They also greatly help in delaying fatigue and may create a feeling of euphoria and a sense of pleasure. Ideally normal males produce between 2 to 10 milligrams of testosterone every day. Females also produce testosterones but in limited amounts. Thus the hormone’s anabolic effect helps the body to retain dietary proteins in great measures, thus helping in the development of muscles, bones as well as the skin. On the other hand, the androgenic characteristics of testosterone is associated with masculinity and hence it aids in fostering maturity of the male reproductive system such as reaching puberty, growth of body hair and deepening of the voice. They can also immensely affect aggressiveness and sex drive in them.
How Do Athletes Take Steroids?
Steroids are administered either in the form of pills, injections or are inhaled in some cases. The most common form involves dosages done in cycles of week or months, with recommended gaps in between. This process is popularly known as ‘cycling’. Another popular medium is known as ‘Stacking’ which involves the employment of a number of steroids administered at the same time. Another process is referred to as ‘Pyramiding’ in which steroids are first taken in small amounts and the frequency is gradually increased to reach its peak and is then again tapered back down.
Anabolic steroids are not at harmful unless they are taken 10 to 100 times higher than the what would be medically prescribed for legitimate use.
Anabolic steroids are most commonly taken in pill form. The ones that cannot be absorbed orally are taken by injection. The normal dosage prescribed for medical purpose usually ranges between 1 and 5 milligrams.
However most athletes operate on the faulty of ‘more-is-better’ and hence involve in the practice of ‘stacking’ many anabolic steroids at a time. These steroids are consumed in combination with other drugs such as stimulants, depressants, pain killers, anti-inflammatory agents along with other hormones. In ‘cycling’ the steroids are taken for 6 to 12 weeks or more. They are then stopped for several weeks after which the dosage is resumed. Where there is nothing wrong in doing so, some athletes do this in the belief that by scheduling their steroids intake, they can manipulate test results and escape steroid detection before their performances.
It is not uncommon for athletes to cycle anabolic steroids over a period of months and even years at times.