The government reform committee in U.S. held a hearing in 2005 which was meant to evaluate the efforts of the major league in baseball in eradicating the use of steroids. There were many stakeholders in the sport fraternity who testified, including some retired baseball professionals. Most of the testimonies presented to the committee reflected on the use of steroids to be a growing social problem in the American society. Many evaluations were made concerning this issue and there were doubts whether an effective drug testing agenda will ever be introduced in this profession.
A similar hearing had been held a year earlier by the government officials on evaluation of Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 2004. This forum had led to the addition of androstenedione in Schedule III of controlled substances. The hearing sessions on steroids use has become a common thing in the 21st century but they are not coupled with policy outcomes. This paper tries to analyze why the policies that have been put in place to curb the use of steroids have not been successful.
Steroid is a broad term referring to a given range of carbon compounds which have many uses but for the purpose of this study I will be referring to anabolic steroids, which are used to build up tissue or muscle in an individual. Anabolic steroid is a manufactured version of testosterone male hormone. The hormone testosterone is both anabolic and androgenic, thus it builds the body tissue and gives an individual enhanced male characteristic.
Brief history of steroid production
The earliest version of steroid was produced in 1940 by Ernst Laquaur, a Dutch pharmacologist, and was meant to help in restoration of sexual energy to aging men. After this was achieved, steroids were then synthesized to help build and help in muscle recovery. The glory for this discovery was short lived as it started to receive condemnation in the field of sports as steroids were said to give athletes undue advantage. In 1975 steroids were added in the list of banned substance in Olympic Games. Trafficking of steroids became illegal in 1988 in the United States.
Effects of steroids on human beings
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Anabolic steroids can be taken either through the blood stream injection or orally. Steroids are taken in cycles over a given period of time. For example, an individual may take multiple doses over a period of time. Some of the steroids users may take different combination of steroids to counter the side effects. Abuse of steroids can result into serious health problems some of which are permanent.
The major side effects include liver diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure complications, kidney failure, tumors, and body cholesterol problems. There are some side effects that only relate to particular gender, for instance in men there is shrinking of testicles, reduced fertility & increased risk of prostrate cancer, breast growth, and reduced sperm count. For women there is facial hair growth, clitoris enlargement, menstrual cycle cessation, and deepening of the voice. To the teenagers, steroids cause stunted growth and puberty changes that are accelerated. There are some physiological problems that are caused by the use of steroid, which includes; mood swings (which can lead to individuals being violent), biased judgment, depression, body nervousness, excessive irritability, and delusions. “More recent studies on the effects of high doses of anabolic steroids provide strong experimental support for their efficacy in some types of exercise performance”. (Yesalis, 2000, p.140)
Why the steroid is a sociological problem
People are willing to take great risks today to excel in the world of sports and perform better in their areas of work. The aspect of image has also become paramount in our society today. The rate of steroids use is growing day by day so that people can be able to achieve their goals. Despite the laws that illegalize the use and trafficking of steroids it has become rampant in the society in the recent years.
There are also social issues that come from the use of steroids which are affecting sports fraternity and the society as a whole. The use of steroids in competitive sports gives an athlete undue advantage over his competitors. This has undermined the foundation for these competition which tries to appreciate the natural talents. This is viewed as a social problem because people are trying to cheat on their abilities. The following are some examples that show this problem as wide spread:-
A survey carried by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services found out that 0.5 percent of adult population in America has used anabolic steroids. Among the group aged between 18 to 34 it was found that 1 percent of this population had used anabolic steroid in their life (Perikles et al., 2006). This was an increase as compared to a similar survey that was conducted in 1991.
Research has shown that the increase in the use of steroids increase with the increase in the use of other drugs such as marijuana. The survey shows that there has been an increase in the availability of steroids in the black market because criminals are improvising new ways to evade the police dragnets. The increase in the use of these drugs has also been attributed to the changes in people’s lifestyle. Many people who are currently using steroids started using them when they were at school going age.
Children at school age
According to the survey that was conducted in 2002 by the “Monitoring Future”, it was indicated that there was a significant increase in the use of steroids among school age children since 1991. The report showed that there was growing rate of steroids use among children in grades eighth, tenth, and twelfth. The 2002 survey by the same group showed that it was easy for school aged children to access steroids. The survey portrayed that the use of steroids was predominant among the male children, these finding are alarming and they are posing many issues about the health of our society in relation to drug use. This rate is expected to increase due to the peer influence and increased availability of these drugs in the American market.
The above figure indicates that the perception of steroids’ use is harmful and shows it decreasing with time among the school age children. This indicates that the use of these drugs is likely to grow both in school and to the general public. The major contributor to this may be due to continued availability of steroids in the black market and increased use of steroid among the people who are viewed as models in the society (Bryan, 2006). This trend portrays that the number of children who are using steroids is likely to go up in future.
Professional and college sports
There is increased use of steroids in college sports, the younger players’ want to increase their physical strength and enhance their competitiveness by using steroids. For many college players, college sports participation is their last chance to engage in competitive sports and they are passionate about it. This alone is enough to make these young sportsmen engage in the dangerous habit of using steroids which can end their career. The use of steroids had started to gain roots in the college sports until legislators decided to take measures (Collins, 2009).
Due to the increase in the use of steroids the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was forced to enact by-laws to curb the behavior. As observed by Collins (2009 , par 2), “Drug testing programs have gravitated toward a strict liability approach, making each athlete responsible for any banned substance found in his or her body, regardless of how it got there.” This has seen many athletes suspended from college sports and it is believed that the trend is on the increase in the county. Many studies have reflected that the culture of steroids use starts mostly during college life.
The issue of steroids use has also raised uproar in the international arena after many athletes’ testing positive of steroids in the international sports. This is because many bodies governing sports have come up with strict measures to curb the use of performance-enhancing substances in various sports. The world sports governing bodies in sports like Olympics and other world sports have come up with a measure that tries to get real talents and eliminates any undue advantage to individuals. These worlds’ standards have seen some players suspended and others banned from international sports permanently.
There are some social issues that have emerged in the Olympic Games that raise questions on the use of steroids. During 1998 Olympic Games Ben Johnson, a Canadian splinter, tested positive of a performance-enhancing substance. This made him to be stripped off the gold medal. The media distorted the whole issue; the saga was distorted further by the ideologies of the Olympic Games philosophy. This case resulted into an inquiry which later proved that there was sabotage in the Johnson’s case (Judith, n.d.).
The inquiry on the Canadian athlete revealed many social problems in the field of sports. The first thing that came up in the inquiry was the issue of unethical medical practices. Where doctors would prescribe drugs that contained steroids to athletes. It was found that there were doctors who were involved in giving athletes performance-enhancing substances.
The other issue that emerged was that of the unscrupulous coaches who were trying to build heroes. These coaches were found to take advantage of athletes who did not understand the effect of steroids. These coaches did not follow the required protocols and tried to improve the performance of the athletes by administering drugs.
Regulation of anabolic steroids
The use of steroids is controlled by the Food and Drug administration that is under the registration of Omnibus Controlled Substance Act. Steroids are included in the schedule III substances which have limited medical usage and can only be used under the prescription of a qualified physician. The classification of steroids in 1990 was media guided; it assisted in shaping the mind of policy makers on the social issues that affected the country due to steroids use.
The interest in steroids use came into public domain upon the dramatic revelations by Lyne Alzado who was a football player in the 1970’s through 1980’s. His revelations disclosed the health risks which are associated with steroids. By this time Alzado was sick and looked haggard and emaciated. Although there was no scientific evidence that linked Alzado medical state with steroids, it provoked the need for government to control the use of steroids. In 2004, legislatures used the case of Alzado demise as an example of what steroids can do to the human body (Denham, 2006).
Another alarm that give attention to use of steroids was given by Ken Caminiti who revealed that about 50 percent of all base ball players used steroids. He later died of cocaine overdose. The alarm and death of Caminiti made the media send a national wide caution that there was need for something to be done to save athletes from their dangerous behavior. Despite the congressional hearings and federal law enactment the problem of steroids use still persist among the athletes and the general public, this has made the enactment of the steroid act of 1990 appear irrelevant. The use of performance-enhancement substances among athletes continued with athletes using tactics to evade various steroid tests conducted.
2004 policy formation and government hearing
The then U.S. president, George W. Bush, in 2004 was the principle actor in the formation of a policy that was intended to curtail the use of steroid and their precursors. In his speech that year, he directed the sporting institution to stop the use of performance-enhancing substances. From this appeal the government officials held various hearings aimed at denouncing their sporting institution for failure to eradicate the use of illegal substances. During this period Senator John McCain - who was the chairman of the U.S. senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation - chaired an inquiry on steroids use and professional sports, which formed the basis of 2004 legislation. In this discussion professional baseball players were the major target. From this hearing, John McCain called on MLB to develop strict substance testing measures to restore the legitimacy of the profession (Denham, 2006).
In base ball profession the team owners are profit motivated and for this reason they sign players with extemporary good performance that are spectacular. The use of steroids assists players to have this spectacular performance which makes the teams to be popular in the television and also be used in commercial ads. The better a player contributed to the success of his team the more he earns and the more he becomes marketable.
After ken Caminiti revelation in 2002 the congress held an inquiry about drug use among professionals. The hearing was placing demand that the league institute a substance testing agenda. This program did not succeed as the base ball team owners were strongly motivated by their economic interests.
In 2004, Donald Fer (an executive director of MLBPA) testified before McCain explaining that collective negotiation was the most appropriate way to solve the issues. He argued that through collective bargaining they would be able to strike an agreement and easily attain the institution compromise. He wanted them to strike a deal so that the baseball players would agree to undergo the substance testing.
Later, a joint statement by Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliable from NFT to McCain pointed out that steroid had no place in the professional baseball or in any other sport. The report portrayed that the league spent over 10 million dollars on drugs annually. After this statement NFL entered into partnership with Ant-doping Agency to construct a substance testing center in Utah University.
The Anabolic Steroid Control Act Of 2004
This act took into effect in January 2005 and was a revision of the 1990 Steroids Control Acts. The new law provides 15 million dollars to support education program for children on the dangers of steroids use, it also gives direction to U.S. sentencing commission to consider revising and increasing the sentence of steroid trafficking and distribution. The new law added 26 new compounds (which includes steroids precursor) in the list of illegal substances (Bryan, 2006).
The new acts prohibits the use of many substances even those which cannot be considered as steroid or steroids precursors, it prohibits the use of drugs like heroine, bhang, and other drugs whose use may result to physical dependence by an individual. Some prohormones were also included in the schedule i.e. the drugs and pain killers. Distributing steroid is now a crime that attracts a five year jail term. Some crimes under this law may warrant the government to seize somebody’s assets or revoke certain licenses.
Although this law has been in effect since 2005 the use of steroids is still common within the society. It has spread from the athletes to the general public and the college students. This is a growing problem in the society and it needs to be addressed further.
Steroids in the college sports
Among the substances that are prohibited by the National Collegiate Athletic Association are anabolic substances that include anabolic steroid and many other performance-enhancing substances. The NCAA law says that no substance that is prohibited can be used even if it is given as an example.
The number of performance-enhancing products is on the increase in the market and the government and other sport agencies are struggling to keep pace. The substance testing program has imposed a penalty, which makes each individual athlete responsible for any drug tested positive in his body. The law makes any student who is found positive for any drug illegible for games participation. The by-law makes an athlete who has tested positive for any drug liable for a punishment without trial. If an athlete tests positive for use of illegal substance the burden of proof lies on him to prove that there was breach in testing protocols otherwise he is suspended from sports. In 1996, the drug testing program faced more difficulties when androstenedione steroidal compound was found in the supplement market. This compound became very notorious and its use was wide spread (Perikles et al, 2006).
The NCAA also included the steroids precursors in the banned substance which comprises of androstenediol and norandrostenedione. However, some of these components are found in the food supplements in many supermarkets. The availability of these products in the shelves seems to be undermining the appeal from the sports authority directives.
Although measures have been put in place, the use of steroids precursors is very common among college athletes. This is because of continued evolution of many performance-enhancing substances that are not detected by the drug testing programs. This problem is on the rise and has led to disqualification of many athletes in sports (Welch, n.d.)
The enforcement of drug policy and weakness
The drug policies that have been addressed in this paper reflect the aspect for moral panic. They seem to have been provoked after the realization that these drugs were causing grievous harm to athletes and possible death. This is the time the league officials and the policy makers realized that something needed to be done urgently. This was after some of the top athletes died of substance abuse. The policies had emerged after the integrity of some popular and competitive games had been questioned. There is a question of what should be done to avert any further problems.
During the 2004 act enactment there was intense lobbying that made some of the anabolic substances escape the ban. Through some of the organization like Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) some substances like DHEA were exempted from the ban after they offered some reasons which led to the compromise. They argued that DHEA was a useful supplement and it was not risky. They presented reports that DHEA contributed a lot of money to the economy and it deserved compromise. According to Gary Wadler who is a member of USADA, DHEA has no medical value in the body and it is converted by the body to testosterone. He pointed out that the substance was equally dangerous as the other banned substance and required control. Through these arguments we realize that there are many performance-enhancing products that continue to be used and there are no laws to control them. The criminals are continuing to use these products while the existing laws give them a free leeway.
The use of steroids in the society is a growing problem which requires a multi-disciplinary approach to solve. This paper has revealed that the use of steroids is becoming more popular in the sporting world particularly among the youths. The policies that have already been enacted both in the local sports and the international sports have not been able to provide a concrete solution to the problem. These policies have made individuals develop modern tactics to avoid the drug testing programs. This means all stakeholders should develop new approaches in tackling this problem.
Looking at the approaches that have been used, the use of steroid and steroids precursor has taken two turns. One is the imposition of penalties to those who test positive by the sports agencies. The other one has been the putting of sanctions which criminalizes individuals who posses the drugs illegally. None of these approaches has proved to be effective as there has been continued development of masking techniques which has made criminals elusive. Since these laws were enacted there is no single elite athlete who has been arrested.
We can view the problem of steroids use as more of an ethics crisis rather than a drug crisis. Thus, we need to analyze this problem and think beyond drug testing or enacting of new criminal laws. We need to look to the extent in which cheating has penetrated in our society, the attitude of using all means to win. We should ask ourselves if these criminals in the field of sports are different from the other people in the society who have lost their moral values. If we analyze these factors may be we will come to realize that the problem of substance abuse in sports does not lie with the pills but within our thinking.