Anabolic steroids have become engrained in sports, bodybuilding, and athletics. Their introduction to competitive sports events in the 1950s led to a new avenue for athletes to enhance their performance and appearance.
However, it didn’t take long for anabolic steroids to be banned. In 1967, they were banned from the Olympics. By 1983, they were banned from the NFL and they were included as a class C illicit substance in the UK in 1971.
Despite their illegal nature, anabolic steroids continue to be a regular feature in bodybuilding and professional wrestling. Gym-enthusiasts continue to use steroids in order to enhance and accelerate their development and recovery. Steroids may be banned, but they have never gone away.
How Do Steroids Work?
Although we all know what steroids do, not many of us understand how they actually work.
Anabolic steroids, such as androstenedione, work by introducing themselves to your body as a naturally occurring hormone. Once they gain entry into the body’s cells, they activate androgen (male hormone) receptors which spark the development of new cells.
The end result is more body mass. If the steroid use is paired with a concurrent weightlifting program (as it almost always is) then the new cells will result in improved muscle development.
Anabolic Steroids Also Aid In Recovery
Steroid use doesn’t just improve muscle size and strength – they also aid in workout recovery.
It has been speculated that the substances found in anabolic steroids block cortisol, which is the chemical produced by the body during physical and emotional stress. After a workout, the targeted muscles are subject to microscopic contusions and tears which usually require a few days to heal.
This damage causes delayed onset muscle soreness which is the reason why muscles often ache the day after exercise. Steroid use blocks the production of these stress chemicals, allowing the user to train with a full intensity more often.
Are Steroids Dangerous?
If one considers the mortality numbers resulting from other legal and illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and tobacco, then anabolic steroids rank relatively low.
However, they are also used considerably less than other substances. Whilst tobacco and alcohol are a part of mainstream culture, a niche only uses anabolic steroids.
That being said, continually abusing anabolic steroids almost always leads to major health problems. Substances such as human growth hormone enlarge organs such as the heart, which is a massive heart attack risk. Illnesses such as diabetes and cancer are also commonplace with anabolic steroid users, as is a portfolio of mental health issues.
However, it’s not just the user that can come to harm using steroids, it’s also the people around them. ‘Roid rage’ is a widely reported phenomenon stemming from violent behavior and an increased temper, perhaps due to the surplus of testosterone flowing in the user’s body.
Acne, baldness, and stretchmarks are also common hallmarks of regular anabolic steroids use.
Should I Take Steroids?
In the grand scheme of things, using anabolic steroids isn’t worth it. Sure, you’ll look and feel unstoppable for a few years, but the effects of steroids can’t be outrun and they will catch up with you eventually.
If you’re an athlete who is considering using anabolic steroids, then you’re taking a massive gamble. Not only are they harmful, but they are also illegal and a simple drug test can ruin your entire career. It is not possible to buy steroids in the UK unless they are medically prescribed to you by a doctor.
Conditions such as HIV/AIDS may be more treatable with anabolic steroids. As the HIV virus causes weight loss, a patient could benefit from the increase in muscle mass and strength seen in steroid use.
The only athletic profession where anabolic steroids aren’t banned is bodybuilding. The IFBB runs categories for both tested and untested contestants and this is the only pursuit where steroid use is widely accepted, perhaps even encouraged.
If you’re a bodybuilder whose dream it is to win Mr. Olympia, then you have may have to consider using steroids. Aside from that, there is no reason to use them.
Anabolic steroids in sports, bodybuilding, and athletics will continue to cause controversy. They may be illegal, but they aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future.