Monday, January 18, 2010

thoughts on steroids and the "confession"

I have had a lot of conversations over the last week regarding Mark McGwire's "revelation" concerning his drug use. Because of my connection to bodybuilding, many people assumed in the past and still ask me today about the topic. The general public is still largely misinformed about steroids and other performance enhancing drugs; how do they work, why do they work, what are the side effects, etc.
I have been around steroids since 1990. I have never taken them. I have seen guys (and girls) inject them, swallow them, sell them, and distribute them. It is much more prevalent than you would realize. Many of my friends have taken them. I am not an advocate of steroid use, but I do advocate making intelligent decisions. If you are going to put something in your body that may harm you, at least inform yourself of what the potential side effects are. Please don't read into this that I condone steroids use; people will use them whether you tell them to or not. I have an obligation to help them make a decision if they ask me for help. Here are a few other thoughts about steroids and other drugs:

* They work...but not for everyone. Judging the effectiveness of the results by the people who I know took them, they will work for 80% of the people who try them. By using the word "work" I am implying that they make you stronger, bigger and more aggressive.
* They work much better for people who have good genetics to begin with. Steroids don't change your DNA, per se; they won't make your collarbones wider or your hips smaller. They will target certain receptor sites located all over the body and flood them with signals to grow at accelerated rates.
* They will not replace poor eating habits, poor exercise habits or poor work ethic.
* They are psychologically, not necessarily physiologically, addicting.
* They won't necessarily make you into an a-hole; but they will make you a bigger a-hole if you were one already!
* They have legitimate medical purposes and uses, especially for muscle-wasting diseases.
* The biggest market for these drugs in the future may not be athletes, but (older) men whose natural testosterone may be too low (similar to women and Hormone Replacement Therapy after menopause).
* Most, but not all, elite physique athletes have taken, or currently are taking, performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids, growth hormone, insulin, erythropoietin, methamphetamines, and pain killers, among others. The sports that have the highest rate of use are bodybuilding, powerlifting, weight lifting, track and field and football. While cycling also has a high rate, they are very specific to the types of drugs they use.

I believe that the next wave of enhancing performance will be gene doping, or changing what genes we turn on or off to achieve a desired result. It is currently being studied and used in animals. Humans will be next, for better or worse. It is our natural desire to want to be the best, blindly turning our minds away from the potential consequences. If a pill or a needle holds that hope, that gold medal, that world record, that trophy, then we will do it.

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