Performance-Enhancing Drugs: the War on Drugs

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Updated: Jun 14, 2022
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Many people look up to athletes, making them their role models in lots of ways. Athletes have the skills, speed, strength, and glory that people admire. What many supporters do not know is that there is a possibility that the traits which make their favorite athletes great, could be a result of the use of steroids. If a majority of athletes use already take steroids, should performance-enhancing drugs be accepted in sports? This essay explains why many athletes decide to bring performance-enhancing drugs into their bodies, how they cause harm to perfectly healthy bodies, and analyses the controversial argument on whether sports should accept the use of performance-enhancing drugs in training and competition.

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According to Margaret Alic’s research in her article “Performance-Enhancing Drugs,” steroids are either natural or man-made, while falling under the categories of “recreational, restorative, and additive (performance-enhancing drugs)” (Alic). Not all performance-enhancing drugs fall under the same category because there are ones that are good for the body and ones that are harmful to the body. Therefore, there needs to be multiple categories that the drugs can fall under since there are lots of them. In another article by Matt Barnard, he lists popular performance-enhancing drugs in sports today, including “human growth hormone/somatotropin, erythropoietin, beta-2 agonists, stimulants, diuretics, and creatine” (Barnard). Performance-enhancing drugs are not always called by names as previously listed. Many pharmacies and drug dealers call them by other names in order to not get caught selling illegal substances. As stated by Barnard, “A drug is prohibited if it meets two of the following criteria: 

  • has the potential to enhance performance
  • poses potential health risks 
  • violates the spirit of the sport”.

Not all performance-enhancing drugs can be entered into the body the same way. They can enter by taking a pill, absorbed through the skin, or by needles. Performance-enhancing drugs allow for an increase of muscle in the body. They were originally produced in Europe for reasons that do not involve sports, such as living with the correct health and nutrients. For athletes, they allow the body to reach maximum strength and energy without tearing up muscles as badly (Barnard).

Drug testing can severely hurt an athlete’s reputation if their test comes back positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Barnard states in his research that “athletes are routinely screened for AAS (steroids)” where they can “detect steroids in blood and urine” (Barnard). People make assumptions, claiming that drug testing the athletes takes away from the privacy of the athlete (Alic). Many believe that it should be the athlete’s choice on whether or not they want to take performance-enhancing drugs, how much they bring into their bodies when they decide to take them, as well as listening to a health care provider’s views and opinions about the choices being made (Jenkins). The majority of athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs go into the process knowing that they will eventually destroy their bodies badly from the side-effects, but still continue with the process (Jenkins). Athletes will do whatever it takes in order to get their bodies to achieve the maximum level of performance in order to win (Lavin). They will take, at minimum, double the amount of performance-enhancing drugs that is recommended, while also making their own combinations of the drugs (Barnard).

Many people believe that performance-enhancing drugs should be banned from all sports because of the results in competitions. Michelle Verroken once asked a thought provoking question, saying, “If a safe performance-enhancing drug improved everybody’s performance to the same extent, what would be the point of taking it?” (“Sports”). The biggest conflict over performance-enhancing drugs is that they allow for athletes to compete to an extent that is unfair, therefore allowing illegal substances to come into their bodies in order to help increase performance. If a select few are allowed to use them, all athletes should in order to compete on a fair playing field (Alic). If people tried to stop banning performance-enhancing drugs and, instead, allow them, athletes would feel like they would have to use them in order to have a chance of winning since everyone else uses them (Jenkins). The stakes are so high and winning is so important to people that coaches and sponsors almost force the athletes to do whatever they have to, legal or not, in order to succeed. Expectations from athletes are constantly being extended to higher levels because of the pressure of the competition (“Sports”).

Athletes, or really anyone that uses performance-enhancing drugs, gradually notice differences in their bodies. These differences include physical features of men occuring in women, while women take on physical appearances of men, along with the typical side-effects (Barnard). In fact, Barnard states that the “widespread use of the male sex hormone testosterone by athletes in the 1980s and 1990s led to the founding of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 1999,”(Barnard). In his research, Barnard also states that “it may be possible to become physically or psychologically addicted to steroids,” (Barnard). Performance-enhancing drugs are still drugs that alter the body and can have the same side effects as any other drug. Some performance-enhancing drugs and steroids have the capability to produce negative feedback, such as when they are combined with over the counter medicine, medical problems, and unhealthy food habits (Barnard). Barnard states a very common, harmful side-effect of steroids, saying that “unsafe injections of steroids can transmit HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C” (Barnard). Other side-effects of taking performance-enhancing drugs can include puberty to appear or come sooner, liver problems, anger problems, heart problems, and kidney failure (Barnard).

Although there is only a very little amount of people that believe performance-enhancing drugs should belong in sports, they are not fully committed to that idea. For instance, many sports fans agree that performance-enhancing drugs should be banned, while continuing to continue to be fans of athletes who were caught using them (Alic). According to research, “Nicholas Pierce is completely opposed to the use of drugs in sports, but is forced to admit that with very large funds available it would be possible to develop a performance-enhancing drug that is virtually free of side-effects,” (“Sports”). Pierce believes that steroids should not be allowed in sports because of the harmful results to the body, but if there was nothing that made them harm the body, he would most likely believe that steroids should be allowed in the sports world. Many sports fans agree that performance-enhancing drugs should be banned, while continuing to still be fans of athletes who were caught using them (Alic). Drugs are more than likely not going to disappear. Though they are going to stick around, many people feel that performance-enhancing drugs that are already illegal for athletes should continue to stay illegal (“Sports”). 

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Performance-Enhancing Drugs: The War on Drugs. (2021, Nov 25). Retrieved from