There's been a lot of news about the use of performance-enhancing drugs — or doping — in professional sports. But it's not just famous athletes who are using these drugs; young athletes are doping too.
A number of professional baseball players, including Alex Rodriguez, are entangled in a doping scandal that may extend well beyond Major League Baseball (MLB).
According to the Miami Herald, the US Attorney's Office in Miami is investigating whether Biogenesis, a South Florida anti-aging clinic, illegally sold performance-enhancing drugs to high schoolers in addition to professional baseball players.
Using performance-enhancing drugs, such as steroids, to gain the upper hand in a sport is not only cheating, it's also bad for an athlete's health.
Men who use these kinds of steroids without the guidance of a doctor can experience side effects such as the development of prominent breasts, baldness and infertility (inability to reproduce). Women who use these steroids may develop a deeper voice, an enlarged clitoris and increasing amounts of body hair.
Both men and women who use steroids might face serious health issues, including high blood pressure and other heart-related problems.
In January of this year, the Miami New Times reported that Biogenesis, founded by Anthony Bosch, was likely providing performance-enhancing drugs to some high-profile professional baseball players.
The biggest name attached to this scandal is New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez (or A-Rod, as he is known to his fans), the highest paid player in the history of baseball and a former MVP who hasn't played this season due to injury.
Yahoo News reports that Rodriguez has been suspended for 211 games for violating the MLB's anti-drug policy. His suspension begins on Thursday.
Rodriguez is appealing the suspension. Because he has never been suspended before, he will be allowed to play through the appeal process.
According to a statement from MLB Public Relations, "Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced [Monday] that third baseman Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees has been suspended without pay for the remainder of the 2013 Championship Season and Postseason and the entire 2014 Championship Season for violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and the Basic Agreement."
ESPN and other media outlets report that 12 other players have agreed to 50-game suspensions for their roles in the Biogenesis case. These players include:
- Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers
- Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres
- Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers
- Antonio Bastardo of the Philadelphia Phillies
- Francisco Cervelli of the New York Yankees
- Jordany Valdespin of the New York Mets
- Jesus Montero of the Seattle Mariners
- Cesar Puello of the New York Mets
- Sergio Escalona of the Houston Astros
- Fernando Martinez of the New York Yankees
- Fautino De Los Santos, a free-agent pitcher
- Jordan Norberto, a free-agent pitcher
Biogenesis and Bosch's role in this case was revealed by Porter Fischer, former marketing director at Biogenesis. Fischer handed over a box of documents to the Miami New Times that suggested Biogenesis was providing performance-enhancing drugs to professional baseball players.
According to Fischer, Bosch not only provided these drugs to professional baseball players, but also to athletes in the NBA, boxing, tennis and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).
And the scandal goes even further than that. According to ESPN's "Outside the Lines," the Biogenesis documents revealed that at least 10 high school athletes may have received prescription drugs from Biogenesis to improve their athletic performance.
Such drugs are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for performance enhancement. Further, Bosch is not a licensed physician and therefore is not allowed to prescribe these drugs.
Steroids are just one kind of performance-enhancing drug. Another common type of performance-enhancing drug is human growth hormone (HGH), also known as gonadotropin.
Athletes take steroids or HGH to increase muscle mass and improve strength.
Both steroids and HGH are used for medical purposes under the supervision of a doctor. However, when used to enhance performance without proper doctor supervision, these drugs can have serious side effects.
According to Mayo Clinic, men who use steroids may develop:
- Smaller testicles
- Infertility (inability to produce sperm or reproduce)
- Impotence (inability to maintain an erection during intercourse)
Women who use steroids may develop:
- A deeper voice
- An enlarged clitoris
- A larger amount of body hair
- Infrequent or absent periods
Both men and women who use steroids also may have:
- Severe acne
- Increased risk of tendinitis (inflammation of the tissue that connects muscle to bone)
- Liver problems
- Liver tumors
- Increased LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and decreased HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart and circulatory problems
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Aggressive behavior
- Mental health problems, such as depression
Teenagers who use steroids may be limiting their growth and development, and may increase their risk of health problems in the future.
People who use HGH may experience a number of side effects, some more serious than others. These side effects may include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle weakness
- Fluid retention (when fluid isn't removed from the body's tissues)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (excessive pressure on the nerve in the wrist that allows feeling and movement to parts of the hand)
- Cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle)
- High cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
"I work with a number of high school, collegiate, and professional athletes, and I don't lie or hold the truth from them. Many athletes use steroids. Unfortunately it's a part of many sports," said Jim Crowell, owner and head trainer at Integrated Fitness, a high-level sport specific training and CrossFit facility located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"I always tell my athletes that we are after long term gains and prosperity. What I mean by that is that I have seen steroids work brilliantly in the short run but many times there are sizable downsides to them. The biggest one that I get into my athlete's minds is that many steroid users end up hurt and sometimes hurt badly. The drugs aren't meant to be in your body so your body actually can weaken in the joints and cause injuries to occur," Crowell said.
"I've also seen big emotional 'mood shifts' where some athletes actually struggle to manage their emotions with all of their hormones messing with their heads. Sometimes this can mess with performance because they struggle to focus in big moments," he said.
"While steroids have produced some incredible performances, there are many downsides to them and I tell my athletes that it is far more worth the hard work and piece of mind to know that they have succeeded on their own without 'cheating'," Crowell said.