Statement of the Problem
In the passed few years there has been an increase in the popularity of
performance-enhancing supplements that are used by athletes. Some of the most
popular of these supplements are creatine and androstenedione. They are used by
some very famous athletes in professional sports. There are many problems that
go along with using these supplements that are not only health-wise, but also the
message that is being sent to children involved in youth athletics.
are not thinking of what kind effects will happen to them in the long run.
However, they are looking for easier ways of training and enhancing their
performance. They are under a great deal of pressure to succeed and win all the
time that it must be easier to find a short cut to being an elite athlete. In this paper
I will explore the risks with these supplements, some regulations that are placed on
athletes to, and if they truly work. Also I will give an overview of what both
creatine and androstenedione are.
For as long as I can remember I have been involved in athletics of all kinds
and have always loved the atmosphere that sports provide.
Being involved in both
high school basketball and golf and now finally playing golf for Xavier, I have
been subjected to rigorous training and conditioning. Never once did I have the
aid of any type of artificial supplement or performance-enhancing drug helping me
condition or build muscles faster. However, when I was in high school I was
aware of may guys who were taking these supplements such as creatine and
androstenedione and getting very muscular, extremely fast. "Creatine and
androstenedione" were common words used around the halls of my school.
Hearing these words made me curious about what exactly they were, what the
effects they had on athletes, and if they were illegal. I found it very interesting
that these supplements were somehow all over the news and that some really
famous athletes had used them.
I wondered if they were safe to use and if they
had any side effects. In researching this topic of artificial supplements and
performance-enhancing drugs, I had many mixed feelings about how I felt about
their use by athletes. However, after my research was completed I have a firm
opinion that these supplements should be banned from athletics all together.
Many questions came up during my research of these
performance-enhancing supplements. Among one of my first questions was,
"What exactly are creatine and androstenedione?" This and many of the other
questions I had about the supplements were answered for me in a recent article
from People Weekly entitled "Hazard Alert.(muscle-building supplements taken by
athletes)" which was a interview of correspondent Jennifer Longley by Charles
Yesalis, a professor at Penn State who spent 19 years studying the use of
performance-enhancing drugs by athletes.
According to this article:
Creatine is an amino acid in everyone's body. It's taken to significantly
enhance reserves in your muscle fuel tank, allowing you to work out
longer and more intensely. There's no evidence to show that it's
anabolic--that is, that it's going to build muscle in and of itself. But it
could lead to modest muscle gain because it allows you to work out
harder. Androstenedione is a sex steroid hormone, which is converted in
your body to testosterone.
The controversy is whether it is anabolic, and
whether it increases testosterone when taken in large quantities. It's
legally classified as a food supplement. But I think that's bunk. It's a
(Hazard Alert 143).
After fully understanding the meaning of these definitions and explanations I
became more curious. Grasping the whole concept of these supplements was hard
enough for the average person to handle and how scientific everything has truly
become. No longer are athletes alone in training, but now have the aid of these
supplements. It seems as almost an unfair advantage over other athletes who are
not using these artificial aids.
After thinking of these supplements as an unfair advantage I needed proof
that they did work. Longley had come to this conclusion, "There's credible
evidence that creatine does work. . .The gains in energy and strength are small--but
significant enough to be very valuable to a competitive athlete.
about androstenedione. I could make an argument that it does work, but I've heard
some anecdotal evidence that it does."(Hazard Alert 143). Also in Longley's
answer to if creatine works she rates creatine on a scale from 0 to 100 of
performance-enhancing abilities as about a 15 and anabolic steroids being 100. So
this shows that it doesn't have the most evident effect on the athlete as say
"steroids" but it does have a minimum effect on performance-enhancing. Then
after discovering if these supplements work the next question that arose was,
"What are the side effects?" From Longley's research:
To date, side effects reported from taking creatine are gastrointestinal--gas
and muscle cramping.
But that doesn't mean we won't discover
something serious in five to ten years. The risks of androstenedione
haven't been thoroughly studied. If you really load this up in the body,
this drug may impact hormones and organs in ways that I couldn't even
imagine. If it is converted to testosterone, then you'd have the traditional
effects that you see with testosterone, including liver damage and
increased risk of stroke. In young kids, a large level of the hormone may
falsely signal the body into shutting down their growth plates.
If God had
scheduled them to be 6'3", they may end up being 5'10". For girls or
women, it could permanently masculinize them, causing a 5 o'clock
shadow or a deep voice. (Hazard Alert 143).
For the most part these side effects are not extremely dangerous, but they can lead
to hazardous health problems down the road. Also considering the fact that for the
most part these supplements are fairly new on the market there hasn't been enough
extensive research done to show how much damage can be done to an athlete.
After all taking excessive amounts of any of these two supplements can lead to
extreme problems that could be fatal.
Like the research shows for excessive use of
testosterone androstenedione increases one's risk of having liver damage or even
more deadly, a stroke.
Another question that Longley addressed in her interview was that of,
"Why is androstenedione banned in some sports but not in others?" I found her
response to this question very interesting. Her answer was very opinionated and
the reason that she gave were very comical. She stated:
I think the National Basketball Association, pro baseball and the National
Hockey league have had the luxury of keeping their hands in the sand
when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs because the public has not
perceived them as having been a problem in those sports unlike in the
NFL. Baseball doesn't eve have the pretense of drug testing. But there
are estimates that 10 to 30 percent of pro baseball players and 50 to 80
percent of football linemen have used steroids at some point.
conspiracy of silence. The attitude is, do what you have to do to win, but
keep your mouth shut. (Hazard Alert 143).
I think that this answer to the question of why androstenedione is not banned from
some sports, but banned from others is very accurate. It is true that people
involved in sports would rather look the other way when it comes to athletes
taking supplements that enhance their performance.
Fans don't care as long as
they are entertained and are having fun at games and coaches just want their teams
to be successful. Which sometimes includes doing other forms of training or aids
to help the athletes. It is ridiculous that such a high percent of athletes are using
performance-enhancing drugs or steroids to help them get bigger. I always learned
that in order to be a successful athlete a person would have to work endlessly.
This is still true, but only to a certain extent because now an athlete can take pills
to help them workout more. I think that is why it was so puzzling to me when I
discovered that many newsworthy athletes had been using performance-enhancing
I always have had the mindset that athletes could never buy their
abilities and now that seems to be wrong because of these supplements.
Review of Literature
The first article I found about creatine and androstenedione was from
People Weekly entitled "Hazard Alert." This article was excellent because it
provided answers to almost all the questions that I had about these supplements. It
had a very interesting interviews of people who have been researching these
supplements for years. Also in this article I found out about Mark McGwire's use
of both creatine and androstenedione.
It said that he had been using both
supplements, but never did he make any attempt to cover this up or hide this from
the media. In this article it also said that sales of these supplements are going to
skyrocket simply because of McGwire's use of them. According to this article,
". . .
sales of the steroid (androstenedione) are expected to top $100 million this
year, up from $5 million in 1997." (Hazard Alert 143). Another interesting fact
that I learned was that, "The national chain General Nutrition Centers has sent a
memo to its 3,700 outlets telling them not to stock androstenedione, precisely
because of safety concern." (Hazard Alert 143).
Among the other articles I found was Jack McCallum's article from Sports
Illustrated called "Swallow the pill." This article mainly focused on the Mark
McGwire fairy tale story of him breaking the most highly recognized record in
baseball of Roger Maris's single-season homerun record.
I found it to be very
defensive of McGwire in that the author said, "Get this straight: McGwire's use of
androstenedione, which he may not have advertised but didn't try to hide, should
not taint his achievement if he breaks Roger Maris's homerun record."
(McCallum 17). Also in this article was a number of different examples of others
that are taking performance-enhancing supplements in baseball. For example,
.Houston Astros star Jeff Bagwell told The Houston Chronicle, two weeks
before the McGwire storm erupted, that he had taken it (androstenedione)."
(McCallum 17). In this article McGwire is reported in saying that he is not alone
and that at least nine or ten of his St.
Louis teammates use androstenedione. This
article too like the People Weekly article touches upon the idea of children
thinking that they, ". . . should not try to buy a baseball career in a bottle.
(McCallum 17). I think that this is a very important idea to continue to drive into
the minds of young people who want to be involved in athletics.
The article "Shadow of Doubt: did drug use kill Florence Griffith Joyner?"
is another fascinating article that touches on the risks of performance-enhancing
supplements. In this article the suspicions of Flo-Jo taking "banned substances"
are addressed. According to Dr.
Albert Fraser, a clinical-forensic toxicologist at
Dalhousie University in Halifax, "The chances are nil that there are any traces of
those drugs left in her body tissue." ("Shadow of Doubt" 62). So even if she did
use illegal supplements during the Olympics there would be no way of ever being
able to trace the substances in her body. Also in this article Darrell Robinson
reported to Stern, a German magazine, that he had bought human growth
hormones for Flo-Jo prior to the Seoul Olympics. Her response to this report was,
"Darrell, you are a compulsive, crazy, lying lunatic." ("Shadow of Doubt" 62).
This is another case that was very surprising to me because in this case she died
and of heart seizures which could have quiet possibly have been brought upon by
performance-enhancing supplements. Dr. Jean-Pierre de Mondenard, a French
sports physician and drug expert is quoted in saying that, "It is probable that she
used drugs, but others, notably in East Germany, did the same. Other famous
athletes are going to die and we will know it." ("Shadow of Doubt" 62). The
doctors today are devoting a lot of effort to find out more information about these
supplements and how they are going to effect athletes in the long run.
Werner Franke, a German molecular biologist and expert in drugs and sports said
that, "This death (of Florence Griffith Joyner) was foreseeable."
("Shadow of Doubt" 62). Finally, some doctors and scientists are paying more
attention to the substances that athletes take in order to prevent more deaths among
athletes that could have been prevented.
"Drugs and Darwin fuel athletes" contained similar information about the
athletes I had already read about, but in every article I found there were
differences about the same athletes. For example in this article I learned that,
"Mark McGwire is the first athlete in history to break a record while publicly
admitting his use of performance-enhancing drugs." (Barnard 48).
In this very
opinionated article it touches upon some of the myths behind, "the moral crusade
against the use of drugs in sport." One myth is that, ". . .
fans won't pay to see
drug-aided athletes perform." (Barnard 48). The other myth is, ". .
. using drugs
means that athletes don't have to work for their achievements." (Barnard 48). In a
way I agree with this myth simply because if an athlete is using
performance-enhancing supplements then they have more energy to workout and
these supplements also help build up muscles faster than without the aid of a
supplement at all.
So I don't see how athletes are totally working for their
accomplishments entirely all by themselves because without the aid of artificial
supplements they would have to work a lot harder to build themselves up.
Eventhough I disagree with some comments in this article the one quote that I
really did agree with was that of Nicholas Pierce. He says that, "Athletes will
always be pushing themselves to the limit; if you could help push them further,
they will go further." This is very true because I know that I am willing to do
almost anything to improve my golf game and if someone is willing to show me
another way to do something I am all for learning new ideas and pushing myself to
Another Sports Illustrated article called "Throwing in the towel: beating a
hasty retreat in the war on drugs," caught my attention because of the information
it had on the International Olympic Committee. It seem as though lately there has
been a number of cases involving Olympic athletes that have tested positive or
have been suspended for drug violations. The IOC appears to be one of the most
strict when it comes to drugs that are in violation of policy and that is why the
statement of IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch was so shocking to the rest of
the committee. He said, "The list of drugs banned from the Olympics ought to be
drastically reduced to exclude performance-enhancing drugs that don't have
dangerous side effects." (Rushin 17).
Coming from the president this is probably
not the reaction that one want to hear in fighting the war on banning
performance-enhancing supplements from athletics. According to this article, in
the last month U.S. shot-putter, Randy Barnes, and sprinter, Dennis Mitchell have
been suspended by the International Amateur Athletics Federation for positive
drug tests, also four Chinese swimmers received bans for drugs violations
Also the Irish swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin could possibly be
banned from competition for life because of tampering with her urine sample in a
drug test. This article is another controversial one that shows how many different
opinions there are surrounding athletes' use of performance-enhancing
After finding out about Michelle Smith de Bruin I was curious to learn
more about the story that enveloped her. I found the Time article "With a Splash"
to give a more in-depth interpretation of what really happened. De Bruin won
three gold medals at the Atlanta Olympics where she was an older competitor at
the age of 26. However, in her recent urine test there were, ".
. . no steroids, but
did detect unequivocal signs of adulteration' that would mask the drugs, by means
of an after-the-fact addition of alcohol, probably whisky." ("With a Splash" 86).
Even with this startling discovery De Bruin says, "I'm not going to crawl under a
stone," and she plans on suing the international governing organization for
swimmers and appealing their decision. Which was to ban her completely from
ever competing again or at least for four years which would inevitably end her
career because she would be too old.
Finally the article closes with a quote from
five-time U.S. Olympic coach, Mark Schubert, "Experienced people know the
telltale signs of doing illegal things to get fast." So basically it is not worth the
consequences of getting caught because somehow and some way everyone gets
For the most part the rest of my resources reiterated all of my most
informative articles that I used as major references when writing this research
Throughout my research it was very interesting to find many different
opinions of the position of performance-enhancing supplements in athletics. There
is one side that is saying they should be banned totally and another that wants
them to be allowed in competition as long as they're not too much of an aid to the
athletes that would make it unfair to other competitors. Personally, I am on the
side that says they should be banned totally in all sporting events. My opinion is
this way because being an athlete in really isn't necessary for a person to take
something to enhance their performance even more and that the drive should come
from within and not a pill or powder. These supplements are also potentially
dangerous and I think that they come with a very negative image to children
getting involved in athletics and witnessing professional athletes use them. I find
it hard to believe that professional athletes need the assistance of creatine or
androstenedione to help them train for their sport or event.
Athletic ability doesn't
come in an over-the-counter bottle and it will never. So I feel that it is pointless to
use these supplements simply for the reason of "getting big." In conclusion, these
performance-enhancing supplements should be made less excessible and banned
from athletic events.