Performance enhancing drugs: a quiet epidemic

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Dick Butkus, a Hall of Fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears, lives in Malibu, Calif., where he raises money to fight steroid abuse in high schools.

For weeks news of Allonzo Trier’s run-in with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) dominated the collegiate sports headlines and occupied commentators around the country.

From college basketball to the Tour de France, PEDs pop up no matter what sport you follow.  The Mayo Clinic estimates that 1 in 20 teenagers uses steroids to aid muscle growth.

But when penalties range from temporary suspension to being removed from future competition and stripped of awards, it would be fair to ask why doping is worth it.

The answer can be broken down into two areas: First, the benefits that athletes can gain from PEDs outweigh the risks in their mind. Second, the supplement market is so poorly monitored that access is very easy.

Dr. Farshad “Mazda” Shirazi, emergency medicine associate professor and medical director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, explained; “the supplement market is not regulated and is over the counter so what you buy could be tainted with performance-enhancing drugs.”

Pharmaceutical companies can get away with including trace amounts of performance enhancing drugs because they are not federally regulated and it boosts the company’s image that their product works better than the competitors—even if for an illicit reason. If you buy protein powder that is laced with a performance enhancing drug such as anabolic steroids, you would see much better results than with that of a protein that is clean of PEDs.

Because the supplement market is not federally regulated, it is up to the public to demand the regulation of supplements to maintain the integrity of our athletes’ performances and everyday fitness needs.

Despite the high profile of the Trier episode, PEDs are usually not a huge issue within collegiate sports. In fact, they are more challenging with high school athletes. While governmental regulations may be lax, universities often issue strict regulations and consequences for athletes who consume PEDs. This is why universities frequently have teams of sports nutritionists to make sure that all supplements are not tainted in any shape or form.

Shirazi noted with high school athletes there is a pressure to perform at an exceptional level to obtain scholarships to play at a university. But most high schools are not equipped with full sports nutrition staff and lack the background to properly educate their students on supplement use.

The Daily Wildcat attempted to contact four representatives of UA Athletics to learn how they deal with the issue of PEDs, but two refused comment and two did not return our messages.

It was not only administrators that refused to comment. UA athletes themselves are prohibited from discussing the motives or perspectives on PED use.

While PEDs can ruin careers and affect the integrity of a sports department, the potential health damage from long-term use of these largely unregulated substances cannot be overstated.

Although one-time use may not have many harmful effects, Shirazi explained “in men, anabolic steroids can cause skin changes such as zits and pimples, increase a male’s natural testosterone and can even affect the temperament of individuals. In women, it can cause them to grow hair and become increasingly more masculine.”

Students should wary of what supplements—such as protein powder, pre-workout formula and vitamins—they are ordering from Amazon, because without conducting their own laboratory testing, the only option is to trust the manufacturer’s word. However, given proper nutrition, hydration and multivitamins, most people can achieve their fitness goals without resorting to more unsound substances.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2017/02/performance-enhancing-drugs-a-quiet-epidemic

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