Rio Olympics May Shine Light on Steroid Addiction

Every four years, people all over the world anticipate the largest national sports competition, but almost every year, an acclaimed athlete falls into the scandal of steroids, performance-enhancement drugs, or developing a steroid addiction.  

In May 2016, Russian athletes who won gold medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, were ousted for doping while competing in various sports.            `

In a CBS 60 Minutes interview, the whistle-blower of the government-run doping agency, Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov, explained how doping was embedded into the skills of various Olympic athletes.           

“Let’s tell the truth. Let people know the whole truth, the way things happen in Russia. To destroy the system one has to talk about it,” said Yuliya Stepanov in the interview when asked how her husband convinced her to admit her steroid abuse.             

Yulia, who had been a “sacred” track and field athlete in Russia, had competed in the 2012 Olympics and used steroids under the supervision of her coaches and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, where, ironically, her husband held a low-level position testing athletes.           

Just like Yulia and other Russian athletes who were exposed during the scandal, athletes all over the world struggle with the pressure of doping to uphold records, medals, and championships.        

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) crackdown on the 2016 Rio Olympics has already led to more than 30 athletes, who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, being caught with steroids in their systems, according to the Wall Street Journal.   

Steroids and Athletes         

Steroid addiction has an extensive history with athletes in rigorous competitions, such as the Olympics. According to ProCon, Greek gladiators were recorded using hallucinogens and stimulants to prevent fatigue and injury during the original Olympic Games in 100 AD.          

Chariot racers feed their horses substances such as hydromel [an alcoholic beverage made from honey] to make them run faster and gladiators ingest hallucinogens and stimulants such as strychnine to stave off fatigue and injury and to improve the intensity of their fights,” wrote Ramian Adbul Aziz, MD, in History of Doping.       

Fast-forward to the 20th century, and the first Olympic athlete, Danish cyclist Knut Jensen, died in 1960 during the summer Olympics in Rome from an amphetamine called Ronical.       

Seven years later, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) established the Medical Commission to fight against the use of steroids in sports. Yet it wasn’t until 1999 that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established. And, in 2000, the US followed suit by developing the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).       

According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency Fact Sheet, “It is USADA’s responsibility to develop a comprehensive national anti-doping program for the Olympic Movement in the United States.”       

Even with the national and international reinforcements against doping, copious amounts of athletes were and are still being caught with banned performance-enhancement drugs in their urine or blood samples.       

You may remember the doping scandal behind Ben Johnson, a Canadian track star who won gold during the 1988 Olympic Games. Johnson was dismissed from the game by the IOC after testing positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. Or, what about Roger Clemens, the most dominant American baseball pitcher who was accused of doping by his teammates and trainer of using steroids? And the shocking 2007 confession of Olympic gold medalist, Marion Jones, about her use of a designer steroid called “The Clear,” before the 2000 Sydney Olympics, contributed to the revelation about synthetic steroids.       

Despite the severe consequences of jail time and being stripped of medals and titles, steroid addiction still plays a major role in almost every sport.

In the past decade, seven-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong; two-time World Heavyweight Champion, Chris Benoit, who killed his wife and son before committing suicide; and, most recently, five-time Grand Slam champion, Maria Sharapova, have all been stripped of titles, privileges, or mentally affected by doping.       

There are many substances—both illegal and prescription—that aid athletes in their performances. Although anabolic steroids or synthetic variations of testosterone remain the most common performance enhancement used in sports, other popular substances include androstenedione, human growth hormone, erythropoietin, diuretics, creatine, and stimulants.      

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the continual use of steroids can lead to developing a steroid addiction and an onset of health problems.

Steroid Addiction, Statistics and Solutions      

An article published by LiveWell, explained the different ways athletes use substances for competitions and games.       

“Steroids are taken in either pill or injection form. The most common dosing is done in cycles of weeks or months, with a short break down. This is called ‘cycling,’” wrote Elizabeth Quinn in “Steroids, Anabolic and Androgenic Steroids in Sports.”        

Quinn went on to describe different methods of doping known as “stacking” and “pyramiding.” Athletes use the term stacking to refer to the use of different steroids at the same time. Pyramiding describes slowly injecting steroids until the athlete hits a peak and then decreasing the frequency and rate of drug use.         

As confusing as these terminologies may be to those who are unfamiliar with how steroids work, the dangers of doping create a magnitude of concerns for athletic and medical institutes.       

Anabolic steroids metabolize protein to promote the growth of muscles and to delay fatigue. The cause for concern is raised when an athlete begins to abuse these steroids. Health problems as a result of anabolic steroids can manifest in both men and women. People who abuse steroids are at a higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and cancer, reported NIDA.       

For men, the side effects of anabolic steroids include infertility, breast development, shrinking of the testicles, and severe cysts. Women who abuse these drugs may start to experience a deeper voice, enlargement of the clitoris, excessive growth of body hair, and male-pattern baldness.     


       Anabolic Steroids and How They Work:

  •         Androstenedione (Andro)
    • is a supplement made from a naturally occurring steroid hormone, according to LiveWell. Although there is little scientific evidence that shows its effectiveness as a performance-enhancement drug, it was banned by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2004.
  •         Primobolan (Methenolone)
    • is popular among athletes, especially MBA players, because of its ability to help them build strength without muscle bulk and other side effects of steroid addiction. It can be digested orally or injected by players.
  •         Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG)
    • was banned in 2003 by the FDA. It is a synthetic steroid and was created so that it couldn’t be detected in drug tests. FDA has a chemical makeup that is similar to other banned substances.
  •         Clenbuterol
    • is an agonist/antagonist that is sometimes prescribed for people struggling with obstructive pulmonary disease, according to LiveWell. Similar to synthetic testosterone, it increases muscle mass.
  •         DHEA
    • is converted in the body to make male and female sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone. It was initially marketed as anti-aging supplements, but this prohormone was taken off the market in 1985. It is still banned by sports organizations even though it was reintroduced in 1994 as a nutritional supplement.

Sobering Statistics

These are just some of the most common forms of steroids. Today, many synthetic drugs exist but the technological advancements, along with WADA, are working to ban all performance-enhancement substances.

According to ProCon, in 2008, WADA banned 192 performance-enhancement drugs including marijuana, alcohol, insulin, blood transfusions and gene manipulations.

Of the 21,849 drug tests conducted at the Summer Olympics between 1968 and 2008, more than 100 tested positive for doping violations.

The same statistic also reported the results of a German study done on 52 athletes who had a steroid addiction during the 1970s and 1980s. Twenty-five percent of the athletes got some form of cancer, 1 in 3 reported thoughts or attempts of suicide, and their risk of miscarriage and stillbirth was 32 times higher than that of the normal German population.       

In 2011, 20 percent of high school students said they were influenced to use anabolic steroids by athletes, and 50 percent said that professional athletes influenced their friends to take steroids, according to ProCon.       

Also, the number of NFL players who weighed more than 300 pounds increased from 10 in 1986 to more than 300 by 2004.

Though the competitive world of athletes may pressure people into ingesting steroids, there are many factors that an athlete must consider before taking these substances.

An athlete can face jail time, expensive fines, and ultimately a lifetime of shame for cheating.

In the 60 Minutes interview with the Stepanovs, Alysia Montaño, an American 800-meter runner who came in fifth at the 2012 Olympics, rewatched her match as she lost to a Russian runner, who was later accused of doping before the meet.

“I see her blow right past me, and I’m thinking I’m going to go now,’” she said in the interview. “…at that moment, I realized I was racing against robots.’”

On June 17, 2016, the Russian track and field team was barred from competing in the Rio Olympics because of their government-ran doping, according to the New York Times.

Battling a Steroid Addiction? Get Help Now

The endurance and strength benefits of steroids can lead to a habitual use. Although steroids do cause slight euphoria, its addictive qualities are due to behavioral and physical enhancements.

According to NIDA, treatment for steroid addictions are most successful through behavioral therapy. People who are addicted to anabolic steroids may experience withdrawal symptoms during treatment, such as mood swings, decreased sex drive, fatigue, cravings, and depression.

If you or a loved one are battling a steroid or substance-use problem, then our specialists are available 24-7. If you are looking to get back on track and perform fairly and health, as an athlete, then our specialists are available to help you choose the proper treatment plan. Call 1-855-619-8070 today to start the road to recovery.

Alyssa Harbina :