Effects of Steroids in the Lives of Athletes

What Really Happens when You Use Performance Enhancing Drugs

Steroids have been an issue within all facets of sport for seemingly the past twenty years and not only until recently had the threat of these drugs been taken into full account. These drugs not only hurt the integrity of the game or sport that an athlete may be involved with but, most of all, it hurts the athlete who is taking the steroid through emotional, physical and psychological pain. Many of these sometimes tragic stories are forgotten or pushed aside as society becomes more concerned about the image of the sport rather than the well being of the athlete who in some cases has been coached or coerced into taking these substances. This issue needs to be brought to the forefront when talking about steroid use because these are lives of people that are being affected and in some cases these people are never able to recover from the damaging consequences from taking such drugs. The effect on the overall sport is also a serious issue but when it comes to peoples lives nothing should be more important and within society today that has been the attitude most have adopted, that the sport is the one that needs to be saved not the athletes.

Steroids and performance-enhancing drugs have been running rampant through sport. Most of these athletes that have been caught or assumed guilty of taking these drugs have been outlawed and frowned upon within society whether it is deserved or not. What society fails to see is that at one time it was viewed as almost acceptable for athletes to take these substances to provide the fan with the best possible experience. The athletes too, are viewed as the bad guys of the sporting world but maybe rather than being the bad guys they are actually the victims of a society that forced them to risk everything and then came down on them when it was viewed as unacceptable. Most media tend to focus on the side of the steroids and not so much on the effects that these drugs have on the individuals who take these substances.

It will begin by focusing on the issue of steroids and substance abuse within sports and the controversy that that has developed from that. Once that has been laid out the role steroids play in the lives of athletes now and during the time in which they were abusing those substances will be looked at. As well, trying to portray the role in which society has played in promoting and encouraging these athletes to resort to these substances.

Definition of Terms

Anabolic Steroids
is a class of steroids that are related to the hormone testosterone. These steroids build up cellular tissue within the muscles.

HGH – Form of steroid also known as Human Growth Hormone

THG – Tetrahydrogestrinone is a designer steroid, also known as synthetic testosterone

The Mitchell Report – A study conducted by both the MLB and federal government to determine use of steroids within baseball

Literature Review

The literature review will examine the four areas related to steroids and athletes and they are as follows: Types of Steroids, Major Health Effects, Steroids in Sport, Public Image.

Types of Steroids

There are many kinds of steroids that are very common amongst athletes throughout all facets of sport. For this report the focus will be on the common forms of steroids and substances that enhance the performance and strength of the athletes.

THG or tetrahydrogestrinone is a substance that was unknown to the world until October 16, 2003 when the United States Anti-Doping Agency informed the world (cbc.ca/steroids). THG is what has now become known as a “designer drug” which is a modified steroid designed to escape detection in normal laboratory testing (cbc.ca/steroids). This substance was created through a conspiracy which involved chemists, coaches and many athletes that were determined to defraud fellow athletes in competition (cbc.ca/steroids).

Anabolic steroids are another form of steroid that was designed to increase strength and muscle mass. These were one of the earliest forms of performance enhancing substances that date back to as early as 1935 where it is believed that Hitler gave some of his troops these substances to increase their aggressiveness (anabolicsmall.com). Anabolic steroid use has run rampant amongst all sports at all levels with athletes trying to get the advantage on one another in order to be successful. Today these steroids have become so prevalent that there is only one sport in the Olympics that has never had a positive test for steroids and that is women’s field hockey (anabolicsmall.com).

Major Health Effects

Steroids have many “positive” effects on athletes when they are attempting to increase their short term performance; steroids are used in everyday life in the medical world as well in positive ways. Then there are the negative effects that usually are under looked by athletes when improving their performance is the main goal. These negative effects outlast the steroid cycles and once the athlete stops using for “positive” impact the negatives continue to grow and affect the athlete for the long term. The list of side effects is large and still many more come along with each further study. The most publicized effect from steroids in athletes is roid rage; users experience an increase in violent urges and thoughts. There is even a risk though low, 5%, that steroid users will face significant symptoms relating to roid rage resulting in mania or even psychosis (Roberts). Roid rage is usually the only time the effects of steroids on an athlete are in the media like WWE star Chris Benoit’s murder-suicide resulting from roid rage. Other side effects from steroids that can be seen visually would include acne, baldness, stunted growth and increase in body hair (Roberts). Many other effects are internal and not noticed until the full effect has taken place in the athlete such as liver, kidney damage or even cancer. Each type of steroid can provoke different types of cancer but all will. Research on this topic has concluded that “athletes should be made aware that long term treatment with doping agents might increase risk of developing cancer”(Tentori, Cancer Risk Factors).

Steroids in Sport

The most common form of steroid found in athletes is what is known as an anabolic steroid. This steroid was not fully known about until 1954 when the steroid was used by American athletes for the first time where it was then only world-class athletes in high strength sports like weight lifting that were known to be using the substance. It is believed that these types of steroids have been an issue among Olympic athletes since 1964. Athletes and trainers alike developed high dose drug regimens that were not based on any sort of scientific research. Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones derived from the human male hormone testosterone. This drug is used for sports where building muscle is the goal rather than increasing endurance. This form of steroid is primarily used in sports such as baseball and weightlifting where muscle is the most important attribute for the athlete. Many professional leagues have included a drug policy relating to steroids such as the NFL and MLB, where individuals have come forward and admitted to using types of steroids to help improve the games.

Public Image

Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Marion Jones, Ben Johnson, Shawn Merriman are some big named athletes who have all been very successful either winning gold medals, setting home run records or being the best at their position. All have been accused and most disciplined for using steroids to accomplish these goals. This is just a very small number of professional athletes that have grabbed international attention at one time or another for their successes and then everything was taken away. What these high profiled individuals did to each of their respected sports has changed people’s views about athletes and pro sport. Respect, trust, history has all been lost in the sporting world because of steroids effecting outcomes. To define an image of a known steroid user words such as dishonest, out casted and negative usually are involved, these athletes’ images are destroyed and so are their careers and life outside the sport. The individual images can carry onto an entire league such as Major League Baseball and the Olympics. A poll was conducted in 2004 about steroids and the Olympics its findings where 90% people believed steroids would be a problem at the Olympics.


Athletes who begin doing steroids have long-lasting negative effects within their lives compared to athletes who do not get involved with steroids. This side of the story is rarely taken into account when stories are released to media outlets. Society has created an image for athletes that excellence and winning is everything and for athletes who have worked all their lives to get to a certain point and have peaked, steroids become a very legitimate answer.

Chapter II: Method

Design Overview

To get information and insight into the effect of steroids on the lives of athletes both mentally and physically, it is imperative to gather data from the general public. The data was gathered through an eight question survey conducted by participants from two different multisport complexes. The questions were aimed towards how much knowledge the public has on the issue of steroids and to what reasons athletes are taking these steroids. We also tried to look at how the public views the steroid dilemma.

Research Participants

Needing somewhat of a knowledgeable opinion the participants needed where sought after at sporting facilities. The targeted participants were between the wide age group of 18-55, both genders and some knowledge about steroids and sports. Ten surveys were handed out at random at two different multipurpose sporting venues. In total there was twenty surveys distributed throughout the two facilities in the evening as that is when there is the most activity. The survey was completed while the individuals were still in the facility the intent being to obtain the opinions of individuals with knowledge and opinion on the issue without personal research.

Data Collection Methods

The data gathering method for this study was a written survey. The survey was brought to the two facilities. The participants involved were asked to complete the survey voluntarily within their time at one of the facilities. The survey was completed with complete anonymity of the respondent’s names. All surveys were completed within thirty minutes of being released.

Chapter III: Results

The survey revealed answers to some of our questions and allowed provided opinions on the steroid issues. The first two questions asked if people were aware of the steroids and illegal substances in sport and if people cared about the side effects the athletes received from these drugs. 20 out of 20 responded yes to having knowledge of the issue with only 12 out 20 caring about the side effects the athletes face. The third question asked if people were aware of the side effects of steroids with 16 of 20 saying that they were aware. The fourth question asked if people were aware deaths caused by steroid consumption with only 5 of 20 surveys saying that they were aware of a death. The fifth question was asked to determine whether the use of steroids was due to media pressure or just personal use with 9 of 20 users believing that the media pressure was to blame in some cases. The sixth question determined whether the public feels that the issue of steroids is being resolved and at what speed with 14 of 20 respondents saying yes, but slowly. The last two questions focused on whether society should become more accepting of steroids and whether sports will ever truly be clean. The results revealed that 16 of 20 believe society should not be more accepting and 17 of 20 responding no to sport ever being truly clean of steroids.

Chapter IV: Data Analysis

The information collected gives a telling look into the populations’ views on steroids and the athletes that use them. It has always been known that the media has an influencing ability and this relays over to the publics view on athletes involved with performance- enhancing drugs. With the information from the conducted surveys it is clear that people understand that steroids are illegal in sports and what the effects are on the athletes that choose to use the substances. Even though these are known facts the population is split when it comes to caring about the people behind the drugs and what happens to them when its all said and done. Steroids will leave long lasting negative effects on its takers that can cause serious damage to the individual later in their life, all for becoming a more entertaining and skilled athlete. Through the information gathered it becomes clear to how the media portrays and covers the other side of steroids. After the athlete has been identified and punished the coverage usually drops but that’s when the steroids effect on the individual becomes clearer. A very low percentage of surveyed people have heard of a death caused by using a performance-enhancing substance which is disappointing when there is numerous athletes that have been killed by these drugs. The major impact of steroids in regards to sport is how it has effectively tarnished most major professional sport leagues in North America and the World. The results of the survey show that people feel sport will never be fully clean and that’s because of how much pressure is placed on athletes to win. The surveyed population understands that professional sport is making attempts to improve but feel it can never be achieve to the fullest.

Chapter V: Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations


Throughout steroids has been talked about and every aspect covered from types to how they have tarnished sport. The types of steroids in use today have made it easy for athletes to get that upper hand over opponents but to what cost to themselves and the game itself. Individuals who once could have been categorized as superstars have become responsible for leading the way for steroids in sport. The research was conducted by use of surveys with public participants involved in sport.


It seems as though steroids has destroyed everything it gets involved in whither it be professional sport, individual athletes, amateur sport and everyday people. Steroids in the lives of athletes are very dangerous but also tempting as pressure rises from every aspect and some things that have been found about the relationship with steroids and athletes would include:

  • The public is more concerned about the image of professional sport then an athletes well being
  • The media places the blame on the individual athletes
  • Athletes will risk long term pain for short term gain
  • Public is unaware of the athletes suffering


To solve the problem with steroids and athletes many things will need to be done, but to start the change these things will need to be looked into:

  • Continued wide spread research
  • Public becoming well informed on what’s happening to athletes using steroids
  • Retired athletes become involved in promoting cleaning up sports