Steroids Threaten Athletes Beyond Professional Level

Though baseball’s homer-hitting icon Barry Bonds’ steroid bust was a heartbreaker for many staunch Giants fans, it was a much-needed eye-opener for the athletic world, where performance-enhancing drugs are becoming unsettlingly prevalent. The 42-year-old Bonds has denied the alleged claims, testifying that he was given the undetectable steroids by his trainer in the form of a clear substance that he believed to be a nutritional supplement made of flaxseed oil, and a cream he thought was a pain-relieving balm for his arthritis.

While many naive people choose to buy into this act, the majority lean toward the overwhelming evidence that suggests Bonds was fully aware of the true nature of these drugs and their purposes. His trainer, Greg Anderson, has been accused of to selling steroids to numerous athletes, including Bonds, with whom he worked very closely.

Bonds also endorsed the performance-enhancing drug company BALCO, run by scientist and supplement provider Victor Conte, who was busted for selling illegal steroids to many famous athletes, including some in the NFL and the Olympic Games. Back in September of 2005, the FBI discovered records and calendars of Bonds’ long-time steroid cycles.

There were also rumors circulated by Bonds’ ex-girlfriend, who claimed that he became aggressive and carried around what she called his “man bag,” from which he popped as many as 20 pills at a time. Not to mention the fact that his drastic physical transformation and increase in personal achievements were obvious to anyone who followed his career.

The bigger issue, however, is athletes’ desire to bulk up for a competitive edge is gradually spinning out of control. Bonds only served as a harsh reminder of a reality that many are hush-hush about. It is expanding outside the more common areas of bodybuilding and wrestling to all levels of athleticism, from club leagues to high-school- and college-affiliated sports, and even to the “average Joe” pumping iron at the gym.

This sets a bad standard for the youth of today, telling them to do whatever it takes to reach the top. A report by the Department of Health and Human Services stated that 12 percent of teenage boys and 2.5 percent of teenage girls use steroids.

The pressures to maintain a positive body image and keep top rankings push too many people to resort to unhealthy measures. The leniency of drug testing in the sports world only makes matters worse. It’s a vicious cycle that is turning too many kids’ idols into cheaters and drug abusers.

While watching ESPN or Fox Sports, it’s difficult to see the 6 foot-plus guys with veiny muscles bulging from their jerseys and not wonder how many of them are shooting or popping. The media tries to push it aside and desensitize the issue while those directly involved with the athletes, such as coaches or teammates, hold back their suspicions and don’t ask questions. People need to speak out, not only for the health of the users but for the protection and integrity of sports as a whole. Or perhaps we don’t really care as much as we say?

Despite clear health detriments and other effects, some people don’t see the downside of steroids.

“Steroids don’t take away from natural ability,” Revelle College freshman and sports fanatic Darren Matsumoto said. “They have nothing to do with skill or coordination.”

While there is a grain of truth to this, it’s disturbing how easily some dismiss the fact that steroids are illegal, and that users gain an unfair advantage over others. If one person uses steroids, then should everyone? What if your role model were on steroids, or that one person on your team who always gets more playing time than you, or the opponent who clobbers you on the field?

“I would feel disappointed in that person that he felt that he had to succumb to using steroids in order to be the same as all the other athletes and that he couldn’t do it on his own personal strength,” Revelle sophomore Eleni Alevizos said. “At the same time, I would understand why he did it. I know that many athletes have tough competition and when everyone else is doing it, it is hard to resist something that can make it easier, regardless of the negative effects.”

Other students are less merciful. “I would be really crushed,” Thurgood Marshall College sophomore Jacques Spitzer said. “It is cheating and it would be hard to respect anything they had done in their career. Their integrity would be destroyed. I might be able to forgive them, but not support them.”

There is not a professional sports player out there who has not seen this sort of drug abuse, but to succumb to it takes away that high-caliber level of playing that the athlete has worked so hard to reach. “Respect is the main issue,” Revelle freshman Martin Hofmann said. “There are always going to be temptations for anyone in any area, but it’s about sticking by your principles.”

John Muir College alumna Lori Hwangbo points out that it takes more than just muscle mass to gain this so-called “respect” as an athlete.

“I would much rather support a so-so athlete who makes up for his shortcomings with a lot of heart and effort than a dishonest, juiced-up athlete who just whacks homers,” she said.

The negativity surrounding Bonds dangles in the air of her speech. After all, people have every right to be stirred by his actions, and these emotions are only intensified as Bonds threatens to break Hank Aaron’s career home run record.

After seeing such tragic downfalls because of steroids and the risks involved with surrendering to them, one can only hope that people will soon realize that it’s just not worth it. What exactly are steroid users accomplishing, anyway? Sure, they may like the sense of power and the defined abdominals and carved arms in the mirror, but inside they are tearing up their bodies and minds with heart disease, tumors, tissue damage, depression and countless other side effects. Last time I checked, balding, impotent, acne-pocked men with raging aggression and paranoia and irritable, angry women with deep voices, rock-hard breasts and beards were not in high demand in the dating world. Athletes need to stop focusing so much on results and go back to finding the joy in a healthy diet and training regimen and — the pure love of the game.