Tammy Thomas, a former champion of cycling, is on trial for perjury and obstruction of justice for supposedly falsifying testimony during the BALCO scandal trials. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, she allegedly stated that she was not using “banned drugs” to enhance her performance. Her lawyer is claiming that, since the steroids she was taking weren’t illegal when she was talking them, that her testimony was not considered perjury.
Tammy Thomas, like many other athletes, apparently used steroids to increase her performance, which is banned by the Olympic sports competition. These steroids can have many harsh side effects. According to the Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center, these can include stunted growth in children and adolescents, heart attacks, strokes, liver and kidney tumors and failures, risk of HIV or hepatitis when injected, and changes in the secondary sex characteristics of men and women. Because of the alteration to the hormone levels, men may experience impotence and/or the growth of breast tissue, and women may experience the growth of beard and chest hair and may even experience male pattern baldness, as Thomas demonstrated. One serious side effect of anabolic steroids not experienced by Thomas is psychological changes, including anger management difficulties.
While athletes take a form of steroids known as anabolic steroids, other forms, particularly corticosteroids like Prednisone, are still used readily to treat genuine medical conditions. I have been on high-dose corticosteroids at least twice a year for as long as I can remember to treat asthma flare-ups, and have noticed an effect on my athletic status.
I have competed in swimming and ballroom dance for several years, and I do notice that, while on corticosteroids as a very low dose part of my maintenance treatment, and especially when on high-dose “burst” treatments, I seem to develop muscle far quicker than off. Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed that, if I don’t closely monitor my diet, I gain weight quickly, bruise easily, and can have frequent sudden drops in blood sugar.
Both corticosteroids and anabolic steroids have other side effects that I have been fortunate enough to avoid thus far. Some of the shared side effects listed on Steroids.com are acne, cataracts, bone loss, mood swings and insomnia, high blood pressure, and serious damage to the heart and blood vessels. I have always said that good health is a blessing and a necessity, and if corticosteroids are necessary to aid in treatment of a serious health problem, but the side effects have to be monitored very closely and can be quite scary at times.
So, are steroids worth the risk to help a health issue? Maybe. Are they worth it to build a little extra muscle to look good, or to win a sports competition? In my opinion, no.