Steroid use and abuse has been a popular media topic recently. Much of the public was first introduced to the terms “steroids” and “performance-enhancing drugs” through the media coverage of BALCO and the public outing of some of BALCO’s clients (baseball and track athletes primarily). Recently, Congress held hearings on steroid usage in Major League Baseball (MLB) and now many well known athletes are under suspicion for using steroids. Yet, most people, congressmen and media types included, have a poor understanding of what steroids and other performance enhancing drugs actually do (versus Mother Nature). If they were more knowledgeable, they wouldn’t still be questioning whether or not athletes such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa ever used performance-enhancing drugs.

So to help people recognize steroid abuse, I have developed a simple primer I refer to as STEROIDS FOR DUMMIES. For the sake of simplicity, I will limit this discussion to steroids, even though many drugs are used to enhance performance.

If they look like a comic book super hero, they’re taking steroids. The human body naturally limit’s the amount of muscle mass any one person can build. Itdoes this by carefully regulating the amount of muscle building hormones (suchas testosterone) it produces. The normal levels of these hormones are well established. The amount of hormones it takes to build the large mass of muscle typically seen in NFL players and professional wrestlers (the super hero look), far exceeds the human body’s capacity…unless you happen to be a freak of nature. And nature hasn’t suddenly started producing thousands of muscle-massive freaks. Of course, the NFL insists the 300 plus muscle-massive athletes in the league are “natural”….must be their “training” methods. If they claim their training methods are the reason they have more muscle mass,they’re taking steroids. There are no training methods that will allow the human body to significantly increase its natural production of muscle building hormones. Remember the East German Olympians — especially the female swimmers?

Huge muscles. Looked like men. Had testosterone levels equal to men. Bragged about their superior training including electrical stimulation. Busted for steroids. Chinese track and field athletes were dominant in the sport in the1990‘s…came out of no-where. Claimed unique training methods including drinking blood. Busted for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Their coacheswere from the former country of East Germany. The Chinese are no longer a force in track and field.

If females have muscles as large as males, they’re taking steroids. Females naturally produce only a fraction of the amount of testosterone males produce (they lack the necessary glands). Testosterone is essential for building muscle mass. Large muscle mass cannot be built naturally without testosterone. Remember US track athletes such as Flo-Jo, Marion Jones, and Mary Decker. Won a lot ofgold medals and set a lot of records. Remember how buffed they were then? Did they ever set records or win gold medals after they “slimmed down”? Mary Decker tested positive for having a level of testosterone higher than some men before finally being banned from competition. Marion Jones hasn’t come close to repeating her performances from the “enhanced” era. Flo-Jo went from never winning a US or World championship (looked like a normal female) to winning a bunch of Olympic medals (and then suddenly retiring) in about an 8 month period (with large male-like muscles).

If an athlete’s performance suddenly improves or muscle mass suddenly increases, they’re taking steroids. Performance increases incrementally, not suddenly. Look at athletic records over the past 100 years. Humans are not running, jumping, or throwing much further than they were a century ago. Sprint records improve by about 1/10th of a second every decade or so. When a sprinter, for example, who has never broken a record in their career suddenly starts smashing records….performance-enhancing drugs are involved. When a baseball player goes from never hitting 40 home runs to hitting over 70 in one year (and continues to perform at that level)…steroids are involved. In a male athletes prime years for growth and testosterone production (age 17-24), muscle mass can be added naturally up to about 40-50 lbs, with 15-20 lbs being the max for any one year. So, if someone puts on 15-20lbs of muscle in a short period of time (less than 5 months)….they are taking steroids. Take for example a scrawny non-athlete like movie actor Brad Pitt. How do you suppose he bulked up in just a few months (for his role in Troy)? If an athlete bulks up and/or improves his performance dramatically after theage of 30…they’re taking steroids. See number 4. The male human body produces significantly less testosterone each year after about age 24. By the age of 40, the production of testosterone can be 50% less than what it was at age 20. If anathlete continues to workout intensely as they age, they can greatly slow down the loss of performance and muscle mass, but they cannot reverse it. Nolan Ryan’s a great example of an athlete naturally maintaining a high level ofperformance and strength into his 40’s. Bonds, McGwire, Sosa are examples ofathletes who increased their muscle mass and significantly improved their performance as they got older…with the help of steroids. If an athlete suddenly “slims down”, they’re taking steroids. Just as it takes many years to naturally build 20-40 lbs of muscle, it takes years to lose it (other than severe illness/disease or complete bed rest). When muscle mass isincreased via steroids, the body cannot maintain that abnormal level of muscle unless it continues to receive “extra” testosterone. Once the steroids are stopped, muscle mass will decrease rapidly despite continued intense workouts. See Jason Giambi and the new McGwire. Also, you don’t lose muscle mass rapidly by dieting…you lose fat.If an athlete builds muscle mass and loses (or doesn’t gain) fat…they’re taking steroids. One of the nice affects of steroids/testosterone is that they burn fat. Athletes who take steroids tend to have lower than normal amounts of body fat. They’re “cut”. See David Boston (whoops another NFL player), Bonds,professional body builders. Power (weight) lifters typically have large muscles and at least 15-20% body fat. Body builders typically have large muscles and abnormally low % body fat. Guess which group is notorious for taking steroids. For the past 40 years (at least) all championship level body builders have taken steroids. Steroids are illegal without a physician’s prescription. And doctors can lose their medical license if they are caught prescribing steroids for non-medical reasons (such as building muscle mass to improve athletic performance). There is a reason (actually there are many) steroids are illegal. So don’t believe or support anyone who says there’s nothing wrong with taking steroids.

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