Do Athletes Become Better on Anabolic Steroids?

Sports and Steroids

News of Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez taking performance enhancement drugs created quite a stir in the sports industry and has highlighted the fact that many star athletes are under such medications. 

The New York Yankees star has admitted that he was using PEDs back before he suited up for the team. Unfortunately, this has put him along the ranks of modern baseball stars like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, both of whom were rumored to be taking steroids to improve their game. Clemens testified under oath that he did not use any of these performance enhancement medications, but Rodriguez did not deny the fact in one of his interviews with ESPN. 

The three time Most Valuable Player of the league apologized for his stupid mistake but stated that he has since been clean. According to sources that Sports Illustrated talked to stated that the star athlete tested positive for primobolan as well as testosterone, though Rodriguez could not remember what he had used from 2001 to 2003. 

His name was just one out of the hundred sports athletes whose names came up in a list of those who have been using banned substances back in 2003. Though the names of those in the list were never made public and were not even penalized, the League has since imposed random testing as well as sanctions to anyone caught using any illegal substances the following year. This was because around 5% of sports athletes tested positive for banned substances which forced the League to take appropriate measures. 

Batting Average of A-Rod During PEDs Era

Many have wondered if using steroids can actually make an athlete better. Let’s take a look at A-Rod’s average while he was taking performance enhancement drugs. Statistics show that Rodriguez’ started out with 36 home runs during his first four years in the tournament but it spiked to 52 each season during his steroid use. 

The same goes true with his RBI or run-battled-ins as well as number of games played. However, his batting average dropped from .315 to .305 while he was on PEDs and then fell once more to .303 in the next five seasons. 

Rodriguez was awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy in 2003 which was the year he ended his steroid use. He received two more MVPs thanks to his impressive performance in the years 2005 and 2007. 

What is Anabolic Steroid?

Most physicians will prescribe prednisone to athletes who are suffering from inflammation or other disorders, but anabolic steroids are of a different level. This type of medication is designed to enhance tissue growth to generate more muscles which is why it is quite popular among athletes. 

In order to know more about the use of anabolic steroids, Dr. Jay Hoffman, The College of New Jersey professor of health and exercise science, was interviewed by ScientificAmerican.com to shed light on the matter. Hoffman, who once used steroids while playing football back in the 1980s was able to meet with the pro-athlete. Here’s how the interview unfolded. 

Were you surprised that Alex Rodriguez used steroids? 

Not really since there were already rumors about his use among the coaches in the League. What I am disappointed about was Alex giving off the appearance that he did not know what he took in his interview with ESPN. He knows exactly what he took in his body. I was actually impressed when we met back in 2006 during a workout session at the Yankees. He asked a lot of good questions with regards to the training plus I am impressed with his work ethic. 

What is the primobolan that Rodriguez used and how does it work?

Primobolan is considered to be an anabolic steroid and is a synthetic or man-made form of testosterone which is the male hormone. It is designed to increase your muscle mass as well as enhance your strength plus it speeds up the recovery time. This medication is usually injected in the buttocks using a needle in order to dissipate the steroid through fatty muscles. This way, the effects will last longer for more sustainability. 

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How is Primobolan detected in the body?

A urine test can be done to determine the presence of the substance in the system. From the test results, you can check the ratio between testosterone and epitestosterone. The normal ratio should be 1:1 but when Primobolan is present, the results show the number favoring testosterone. Chromatography, which is a more complicated lab technique, can be done to check for the signature markers of this medication. 

Testosterone was also detected in Rodriguez tests, but what does this mean?

The testosterone hormone can also be used together with Primobolan to enhance its effects. Athletes who take anabolic steroids often do a stacking dose wherein they use more steroids to maximize their effects. This is not unheard of since the right combination can mean an impressive growth in muscles which, in turn, can lead to more strength and stamina. 

Are there any short-term advantages of using steroids? 

There is a faster improvement of muscles and strength when taking steroids even when you are not lifting any weights. However, the biggest reward here is that athletes will be able to train harder while recovering faster when using anabolic steroids. For example, an athlete who trains on Monday will be able to go back to the gym the following day with minimal aches and pains and continue to do so during the week. For those who haven’t been taking steroids, the intensity of their training is lessened with each passing day since their body hasn’t fully recovered from the training. You might have noticed this yourself after you undergo training for a week. For sure, you will be reducing the number of reps for each muscle that you are training to give them time to recover. 

How come Rodriguez’ batting average did not improve while he was taking steroids? 

There is limited research that shows that Rodriguez could have improved his batting average while using performance enhancement drugs. This is because the batting average usually refers to a person’s eye and hand coordination. Studies that were conducted on frogs showed that steroids can boost the androgen receptors that are found on the nerve endings which means that there is a possibility that an athlete’s reactions can be enhanced. It is possible that the reaction time of hitting the ball in baseball can be improved because of this. 

The main benefit of anabolic steroids is that it lets you be consistent throughout the baseball season. This is one of the reasons why Rodriguez has a higher hitting rate during his PED use. Take a look at the numbers of the best power hitters out there from April to May which is early in the season. You will find that their numbers are quite impressive. But if you take a look at their stats by August and September, you will find that they were not able to sustain it. Another example is the New York Mets. If the entire team was taking anabolic steroids like they did in 2000, they would have reached the playoffs instead of running out of steam. Having that little extra does have a significant impact. 

In the case of A-Rod, he does train hard. By taking steroids, he is actually maximizing his capabilities. Would he still be a great player even without using one? Absolutely. But would he be consistent? The answer is no. 

Are there any side effects associated with steroids?

It all depends on how much you have been taking, how long  the cycle is, and the person’s reaction to it. A common side effect of using steroids is having back acne – this is a sure sign that someone is using steroids. Another side effect is having high blood pressure and a higher LDL profile. The longer the steroid is used, the more the testicles shrink since there is not enough testosterone being produced. This can also mean lower sperm count too.

However, taking steroids can be the same as undergoing puberty the second time around. Users will experience more facial hair growth and even exhibit aggressive behavior. Women who take anabolic steroids can experience hirsutism and even grow beards too. This occurs when the testosterone levels go up. 

How long will the side effects last? 

All the side effects mentioned can be reversed within four weeks after the use is stopped. However, women do stay with the masculine side effects even after they finish with the medication. Every athlete who has taken performance enhancement drugs knows this. Most athletes do a six-weeks cycle on their steroids then take a two month break. During this period, all the side effects they have experienced will revert to normal. 

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Those who experience health issues are bodybuilders or even wrestlers who are getting income for the way their body looks. This can cause body dysmorphia which is basically a reversed version of anorexia. Basically, when bodybuilders and even wrestlers look at themselves through a mirror, they will see someone who has small muscles. These are the ones who continue with their cycles because of their belief that they are not big enough. 

Any other health risks that we should know about with regards to steroid use?

The use of steroids is dangerous to those who have mental health issues or those with heart problems. Anabolic steroids are just like any other type of medication wherein it can have some side effects on certain organs. For example, if you have hypertension and were prescribed an ACE inhibitor, chances are that your kidneys will have a problem because of it. Athletes who are suffering from mental illness should look for other PEDs for their needs. However, you can use steroids in a clinical setting safely. 

How can one use steroids in a clinical setting?

Steroids are quite useful in treating diseases that involve muscle wastage like AIDS, cancer, and even chronic pulmonary illnesses. Scientists who specialize in sports often study how cortisol as well as testosterone levels change in an athlete. 

Cortisol is a type of steroid that the adrenal glands produce naturally and is the one responsible for breaking down a person’s lean tissue to boost your energy. This function is triggered when carbohydrates are lacking or when a person is feeling stressed out. In athletes who undergo high-intensity training, the cortisol levels spike, while their testosterone levels go down. When this happens, fatigue will eventually sit in which leads to overtraining syndrome. 

It is possible to treat the low testosterone levels through an exogenous or external source. This is typically done in men aged 50 and above who are experiencing a decline in their hormone levels. The dosage is pretty small and not like the ones that athletes use to bulk up. 

There are plenty of discussions revolving around the use of exogenous sources to up the testosterone levels of athletes but it is not getting the attention it deserves because of the negative press. The reaction to athletes using PEDs has led the sports media to sensationalize the issue even further. This has led to many misconceptions about steroids but it should be looked into at a purely scientific level. 

Since Rodriguez won two of his MVPs after he stopped taking steroids, is it possible for an athlete to retain the gained muscle mass even after they stopped taking the medication?

The muscle mass gained during a steroid cycle will eventually go down as the weeks progress. This doesn’t mean that you will lose all of them as well as the enhanced strength that came with it in just a short time. This will depend mostly on the dosage and length of the cycle as well as how hard you are pushing yourself in the gym. But if you are asking if you will be able to retain all that muscle after a few years? The answer is no. 

It is possible that what people really want to know is whether A-Rod is actually taking something else. Because even when his home run numbers have gone down, they are still impressive. However, giving him the benefit of doubt has already passed. It is possible that because of his career, he has the chance to buy designer steroids that will not be detected by any test. Those who have been testing athletes for illegal substances know full well that the tests they administer may not be able to detect the newer steroids. Now is Rodriguez on the receiving end of advanced steroids? It is a possibility.

Can you share your own experience with steroids?

The first time I started using anabolic steroids was in 1982 during my senior year in college. I was studying at St. Johns which is a small school for footballers. This is quite different from their national program for basketball. I was keen on playing as a professional footballer and I believed that I would need a little something to get the edge over those who were coming from Division I where all the star athletes were. 

My dream was to be as big as I can. I was quite lucky to be the first ever player from St. Johns who signed a contract to be a professional footballer under the New York Jets. I failed to pass the training camps which was why I was traded. I went to the New Jersey Generals then got traded to the Tampa Bay Bandits. By the time 1984 rolled in, I was suiting up for the Philadelphia Eagles. 

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I was using steroids from 1982 to 1984 when it wasn’t considered illegal. I often buy them from the pharmacy because I had a prescription for them. Since most of the guys in the team do take steroids, we often plan on which room will be going for the shots. I felt that this was something that we needed to do to be part of the National Football League. 

The team physicians had nothing to do with our steroid use. But they were monitoring our health. I had to undergo tests frequently to see if there had been any changes in my liver enzyme and that my heart was doing fine. Even my blood lipids were checked to ensure that they were in the right number. I believed that I used steroids the right way. I didn’t think of approaching two physicians just to get that extra dose. I believed that I was taking steroids in a professional manner. 

Were there any side effects?

Yes, I did experience the usual side effects like back acne and hypertension but they were not severe. During my last season as a football player, I decided to take androgen along with my steroids. This was where I felt my personality change. It was during my third training camp that I realized that the side effects were not worth the risk I was putting myself into hence I stopped. This did not, however, change my interest in the medication. I was determined to find out more on how steroids are effective in building muscle mass and strength as well as finding safer alternatives too. 

What are your impressions about alternative supplements for boosting strength?

These medications were not available during my time as an athlete. Supplements like creatine, which is known for enhancing energy in the muscles, and beta-alanine, which we now know is responsible for regulating the pH in our body, were not in the market back then. If they were, I would have probably chosen them over taking steroids for my health. 

But I do not regret my experience with the steroids that I used back then because I was using it professionally. I knew exactly what went inside my body, my reasons for doing it, and knew the cost of using it too. I would even do the same thing. This is because I did not suffer from long-term side effects. I was never impotent because I am proud to say that I have three gorgeous children, and I did not grow another limb for that matter, as well as any BS that you might have read, heard, or watched on TV. 

However, there are those athletes who are experiencing severe side effects because they never stopped using it. And like I mentioned before, steroids are not ideal for those who are suffering from mental or even heart issues. This is why educating people about its use is important. 

What can you say about the ongoing debate over the use of Performance Enhancement Drugs in the world of sports? 

It is important that we consider that these professional athletes know that they have reached their limit in terms of physique and strength levels. They know their bodies all too well and they know that they will need that extra bit to go the distance. This is where the importance of teaching steroid use to them comes in. 

Sadly, Major League Baseball ignored this matter. They did not even have qualified personnel in their locker room to discuss steroid use. What happens is that the athlete is left to his own devices. It is not surprising to hear that some would approach the local gym rat to talk about this matter. But this is where misinformation occurs. Unfortunately, this can lead to poor choice of steroids including taking the wrong dosage just to name a few. 

Anabolic steroids do have their pros and cons. When taken correctly, they will be able to help become their better selves because of the positive effects of the drug. However, when taken beyond the normal dosage and for long periods of time, there is no doubt that you will experience more health problems down the road.

As for A-Rod, he has managed to turn his life around after the scandal with the use of PEDs. He has regained some of his fame and is working as a commentator in many sporting events.

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