06-13-2002, 04:49 PM #1
VERY good article on AAS- Less biased than recent ones
I don't know if someone shared this yet or not. Very good article with people admitting interesting things. Enjoy.
A Bulked-Up Body of Knowledge
As researchers look more closely at the steroid dosages used by athletes, they are ever closer to determining the risks
By BENEDICT CAREY, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Former baseball star Ken Caminiti's recent statement that "at least half" of major league players are using steroids was barely out of his mouth before he retracted it.
Too late; by that time the debate was in full swing on radio talk shows, in Internet chat rooms and grocery store lines. Depending on your point of view, athletes who dope themselves are either hard-nosed competitors or big-time cheaters. The drugs either add home runs or merely shorten careers. And steroid use itself is either a harmless form of sports medicine--or a deadly gamble.
In part, the dispute expresses simple personal bias about performance enhancers that are illegal, except to treat disease. Yet experts say it also reflects the controversial, and still incomplete, science of anabolic steroids themselves, the dozens of substances now bought and sold illicitly on the black market. "You have to understand that up until about 10 years ago, many in the medical research community still doubted that these drugs had any effect on muscle," said Dr. Shalender Bhasin, an endocrinologist at Charles Drew University in Los Angeles. "We were studying doses of the drugs that were much lower than what athletes were actually taking."
That has changed. In recent years, researchers have begun to study higher doses of anabolic steroids , and piece together a clearer picture of what they do to the body. Anabolic steroids mimic the action of testosterone , which is produced naturally by male testes and, to a lesser extent, by female adrenal glands. Levels of the hormone first surge in boys after age 8, triggering many of the physical changes that occur during puberty--deepening voice, increase in lean muscle mass, acne and physical growth. By adulthood, a man produces about 50 milligrams of the crucial hormone a week; a woman, about a tenth of that amount. Men whose bodies produce abnormally low amounts of testosterone--a condition called hypogonadism, often due to chronic disease, such as AIDS--can suffer depression, sexual malaise, fatigue and shrinkage of their gonads. In recent years, doctors have begun treating these patients with anabolic steroids, usually giving them what are called replacement doses, of about 100 milligrams a week.
Weightlifters and other athletes in search of an edge may take anywhere from 250 milligrams to more than 3,000 milligrams a week, and most are delighted with the change in their physique, trainers say. For example, combining doses of 600 milligrams a week with regular workouts increases muscle size by about 8%, on average, and strength by 10% to 15%, in just a couple of months, according to recent research by Bhasin. "For a competitive athlete, that is a huge gain," he said. Bhasin has also demonstrated that, as a rule, the higher the steroid dose, the bigger and stronger the athlete becomes.
There is a physical cost to steroid use, however, and this is where the scientific debate begins.
In adolescents, doctors all agree that the drugs are dangerous. Not only can doses of steroids cause very visible problems--hair loss, severe acne--but they often interfere with the body's own hormone-driven development. In effect, taking steroids tricks an adolescent body into thinking it's older, doctors say. The result: stunted growth. The rate of steroid use at high schools increased about 50% in the 1990s, with about 3% of students reporting they'd used the drugs in 1999, compared with 2% in 1991, government statistics show. "Some of these guys are stacking several steroids, and mixing them with ephedrine and all sorts of other things," said Dr. Gary Green, a professor of sports medicine at UCLA. "There really is no safe level of use, as far as I'm concerned."
When it comes to adults, however, the science is cloudier and medical opinions vary. Doses of 1,000 milligrams a week or higher are considered risky; yet those in the 500-milligram range may not be, some doctors say. "I'm not convinced the drugs are all that dangerous," said Dr. Paul D. Thompson, a cardiologist at Hartford (Conn.) Hospital, who has studied steroid use in older men and athletes. "I'm willing to be wrong on this. But I think we need to be very careful speculating about serious effects. We just don't have the data yet."
Dr. Nick Evans, an orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles who has studied steroid use, agrees. In a 1997 survey of 100 experienced weightlifters, Evans found that two out of three steroid users reported some noticeable health problem. Some of the problems, such as acne and shrunken testicles, resolve themselves after users quit the drugs; others, such as stretch marks around the muscles and enlarged breasts, can be permanent. "These are the changes [steroid users] perceive on their own," he said. "They don't know what's happening to their liver and kidney function, or their endocrine system."
Researchers can fill in part of this story. First, taking 600 milligrams a week or more of steroids can reduce levels of HDL, or "good," cholesterol after just a couple of months, doctors said. Low levels of HDL directly increase a person's risk of heart disease; and continuous steroid use over many months can drop those levels close to zero, said Dr. Linn Goldberg, a sports medicine researcher at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.
Some people who take steroids orally, in pill form, also develop liver problems, due to cysts or tumors, both of which can be deadly. Finally, taking anabolic steroids suppresses the body's own production of testosterone: When taken continuously, they can cause hypogonadism. In his public comments acknowledging past steroid use, Caminiti said his testicles had shrunk and retracted.
Despite some suspected cases of so-called "roid rage ," the risk of violent outbursts is not well understood. Some individuals participating in research studies are more aggressive on the drugs; most are not. The bottom line, some researchers now believe, is that steroid use appears to heighten the risk of angry violence in people who are disposed to it. "On the one hand, this roid rage appears to be rare," Bhasin said. "On the other hand, it only takes one outburst to cause very big problems."
It's this uncertainty that has led many steroid users to believe that the serious long-term risks of steroids have been exaggerated, said Evans. "They say, 'I'm living proof of the benefits, the doctors don't know what they're talking about,' " he said. "And they get all their advice on dosing and regimes from underground handbooks and other guys in the gym."
Though researchers do not have good studies of long-term users to counter this growing underground, they can point to several warning signs. During a 1990s investigation by East German sports officials, for example, former women athletes told stories of depression, liver problems and internal bleeding, among other things, according to author Steven Ungerleider, who wrote about the East German athletic program in his 2001 book "Faust's Gold." The athletes attributed their problems to the steroid regime.
In another report, published in 2000, Finnish researchers tracked the health of 62 power lifters. After 12 years, eight of the lifters, or 13%, had died: three of suicide, three of a heart attack, one of cancer and one of liver problems. The death rate was more than four times higher than the rate in a group of 1,094 people of similar age who were not bodybuilders. The difference was due in part to steroid use, the authors speculate.
Still, this study is hardly definitive, some researchers say. Competitive bodybuilders often take so many different drugs--ephedrine, creatine, vitamins, sports supplements--that it's not possible to separate the health effects of any single substance, these researchers say. "If we really have an epidemic of use going on, we should have a body count by now," said Thompson, the Hartford Hospital cardiologist. "The fact is that we don't have weightlifters dying in gyms. ... I'm not saying steroids are good for you or bad for you: My best guess is they're bad for you. But at this point I'm saying we really don't know."
The growing willingness to study people taking large doses of steroids is a sign that some investigators believe that the drugs may be taken safely, at least for short periods of time, under close monitoring by doctors. But in 1991 the government classified anabolic steroids as a Schedule III controlled substance, a list that includes opium and morphine, among other potentially dangerous drugs. "We'd love to be able to follow a group of users and actually see what happens to them over time," Thompson said. "The problem is, it's illegal."
So while bodybuilders hide their habits, and sports fans speculate about their favorite players, doctors have no direct way to quantify the long-term risks of what some public health officials believe is a growing epidemic of use.
"The larger issue is societal," Bhasin said. "As a society we haven't come to grips with what we really think of performance-enhancing substances. We put so much premium on winning, it's easy to see why athletes use them. And yet we have sports, like baseball, which have not even agreed to test for or ban steroid use."
That's a little better. I am glad to see someone saying "we just don't know" instead of the crap on ESPN.
06-13-2002, 07:38 PM #2Associate Member
- Join Date
- Nov 2001
great post, and I'd be the first inline to be a "test subject".
06-15-2002, 06:49 PM #3
06-15-2002, 06:57 PM #4Senior Member
- Join Date
- Apr 2002
- long island new york
It's a shame that scientist are so far behind in the game of AAS.
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