One of the most controversial topics of conversation within the sporting world is the use of anabolic steroids. The debates range from the question of fairness within professional sports, to topics such as the short and long term reported health effects.

At one end of the spectrum, you have individuals who are in favour of legalising the administration of steroids in all sports and believe the only true way to create an even playing field is to open up the safe and effective use of anabolic steroids to all athletes who choose to utilise them.

Conversely, at the opposing end of the spectrum, you have individuals who believe steroids should be outlawed in all sporting competition and that any individual who utilises them is a cheat. There never appears to be a happy medium with the topic.

Disclaimer: It should be noted prior to commencing with this article that these are not necessarily the views of the FashionBeans team. This article is not about advocating or condoning the use of anabolic steroids and attempting to determine who is right and who is wrong. It is simply about considering the current research and information presently available.

What Are Anabolic Steroids

So what are anabolic steroids, and what desirable effects can they cause on the body?

“Anabolic steroids are the man made derivatives of the male sex hormone testosterone. Physiologically, elevations in testosterone concentrations stimulate protein synthesis resulting in improvements in muscle size, body mass and strength.”
(Bhasin et al, 1996)

The ability of anabolic steroids being able to bring about enhancements in muscular size, mass and strength make it a popular drug of choice within the sporting world. Further ergogenic effects include, but are by no means limited to, increased lean muscular mass percentages, enhanced recovery between workouts, increments in protein synthesis, enhancements in muscular endurance and a greater tolerance to pain (Hoffman and Ratamess, 2006).

It is for these reasons that anabolic steroid use is often reported in bodybuilding and weightlifting. This is nothing new and their reported use dates back to as early as 1940. In more recent times, their use has also been reported within American footballers and track and field athletes, for obvious reasons (Yesalis et al, 2000).

In the sporting arena – where the difference between finishing 1st or 2nd is simply a matter of milliseconds – is it any wonder that athletes are contemplating the use of steroids? Does the pressure of millions of viewers and the hope and dreams of a nation justify their use? Do the potential benefits of steroids override their health risks and warnings?

The Side Effects Of Anabolic Steroids: Truth Or A Myth?

As with many things in life, the utilisation of anabolic steroids does not come without potential adverse effects. For the purpose of this article, we’re now going to leave the debate of whether steroids are right or wrong from a moral viewpoint behind and concentrate purely on the medical issues surrounding steroid use.

Adverse effects can be seen to target numerous regions of the human body. From a cardiovascular perspective, this can include elevated blood pressure and decreased myocardial functioning. It has also been reported to affect the endocrine system, in the form of testicular atrophy and impotence. From a hepatic perspective, they can enhance the risk of liver tumors and damage. Additional side effects include; acne, baldness, increased risk of tendon tears and numerous psychological problems (Hoffman and Ratamess, 2006).

It has been suggested that these adverse effects are often focused upon by individuals in the medical and scientific professions, who at the same time also undervalue the potential benefits of anabolic steroids, in order to create fear amongst the athletic population and decrease their use (Darden, 1983).

Recently, these sentiments have been echoed by Berning et al (2004) who suggested that the adverse effects and potential medical issues associated with anabolic steroids are somewhat overstated and far fetched.

So how much truth is in this debate? It should be noted that some of the adverse effects of anabolic steroids are by no means minor ailments and that their impact on the human body could be life changing – but how likely is this? All medication nowadays comes with a throwaway manual warning you of its potential dangers, but realistically, how often do they actually occur?

One of the major issues when even beginning to contemplate answering these questions is that the majority of research investigations into this topic lack both validity and conclusiveness. To state the results are limited would be a huge understatement, to say the least.

For example, many research investigations don’t mimic real life situations or even apply to the athletic community. Whilst professional athletes are often involved in long term cycling of anabolic steroids, utilising high dosages and often stacking various drug combinations together, this type of drug trialling is not found in conventional research (Hoffman and Ratamess, 2006).

The argument supporting the adverse effects of anabolic steroids isn’t made any easier by research concluding that many of the reported side effects are also reversible upon cessation (Street et al, 1996).

Before providing our final summary from information provided within this article, it is important to once again direct your attention to our initial disclaimer at the top of the article.

Final Word

Regardless of whether anabolic steroids are morally right or wrong, they have created a situation within the sporting world where they can massively impact upon sporting performance. However, anabolic steroids come with a huge health warning, irrespective of whether this status has been achieved through scare mongering tactics.

Do anabolic steroids offer an equal balance of positives and negatives? Does one outweigh the other or vice versa? Individuals have suggested that the adverse effects of anabolic steroids are often both overrated and overemphasised. This argument is indirectly supported through research investigations, which are unable to show a link between steroid use and serious adverse effects. Furthermore, reports also suggest that any effects might be reversible on cessation of drug administration.

There is absolutely no doubting the effectiveness of anabolic steroids in the pursuit of excellence, especially in sports requiring strength, speed and power. The same unfortunately cannot be said for the adverse effects, with a huge gap in this research field. The research that is available often lacks control, making any cause and effect relationship between steroids and adverse effects almost impossible to gage.

Until this balance is readdressed, can we really expect individuals and athletes alike to sit up and take notice of these potential dangers? In the competitive sporting world that exists, I think this question answers itself.

So, now we want to hear your views:

  • Have you, or would you ever consider taking anabolic steriods?
  • If so, did you encounter any side effects?
  • How about any positive effects they brought about?
  • Which camp are you in – legalise steroids in sport or should hard work and dedication be enough?

Let us know in the comments section below, we are eager to hear what you have to say on the matter.