Thread: A Good Read
01-15-2005, 05:44 PM #1
A Good Read
Found this on another board, thought I would passit along here.... Enjoy
Posted on Tue, Dec. 14, 2004
Steroids might not be as harmful as you think
SOME DOCTORS, BIOETHICISTS NOT OVERLY CONCERNED BY ATHLETES' USE OF PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUGS
By Drake Bennett
THE BOSTON GLOBE
It may not have been the most substantive line in President Bush's State of the Union address last January, but it had to be the least controversial. "The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball , football, and other sports is dangerous," he intoned. "And it sends the wrong message -- that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character."
This week it looked like Major League Baseball was finally falling into line. The immediate impetus, of course, was not a dusty presidential applause line but grand jury testimony by Barry Bonds, the game's biggest star, in which, as reported in The San Francisco Chronicle on Friday, Dec. 3, he admitted to taking anabolic steroids -- unwittingly, he insisted. While this came as a shock to no one who follows baseball, the resulting blast of outrage has put the baseball players' union, long opposed to meaningful drug testing, on the defensive. By last Sunday, Sen. John McCain was threatening to introduce legislation to toughen Major League drug testing if that's what it took. By Friday the president had reiterated his own demand. Throughout the week, the league and the players' union were at work on the outlines of a tougher testing regime.
But it's unclear just how wide the indignation spreads. Far from alienating fans, the steroid scandal unfolded during the course of a season of record baseball attendance. And a New York Times poll a year ago found that, among those under the age of 30, 41 percent didn't have the slightest problem with the use of performance-enhancing drugs by professional athletes.
Such nonchalance may be unsettling. Yet according to a few doctors and bioethicists, it's also rational. The concern over steroids -- and performance-enhancing drugs in general -- is misplaced, they argue. According to Adrian Dobs, an endocrinologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, for most steroid users the likelihood of "something terrible or catastrophic" happening is "probably pretty low." Moreover, argues Norman Fost, a pediatrician and head of the University of Wisconsin's bioethics program, "the claim that there's something immoral about using these drugs is based on very sloppy thinking or simple hypocrisy."
Needless to say, such arguments are met with everything from bemusement to exasperation by many doctors and policy makers. But thinkers like Fost (perhaps the most visible of the steroid skeptics) dismiss their critics as hysterics, pointing not only to the scant evidence of health risks, but the history of similarly controversial innovations in sport and the distorted way in which we tend to look at the risks athletes face. So are these drugs really so dangerous? And does using them really amount to cheating?
The first question, a medical one, would seem less open to dispute -- and up to a point, it's not. With anabolic steroids , for example, there's wide agreement that there are short-term hormonal effects like hair loss, acne, infertility, and, in women, male-pattern body hair and a lowered voice. But, as Fost points out, these are mostly cosmetic and, except for the voice changes, usually reversible.
The real horror stories involve cancer, strokes and heart attacks. Lyle Alzado, the legendary NFL defensive lineman, died at 42 of brain cancer that he attributed to years of heavy steroid use . Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees developed a pituitary tumor this year that has been widely linked in the press to the steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) he has admitted to taking.
The biggest problem in assessing the danger of steroids, according to everyone involved in the debate, is the lack of data. In smaller doses, anabolic steroids have been used medically for 70 years, and the amounts some athletes take are in the range a doctor would prescribe for, say, a man who needed to replace testosterone lost because of testicular cancer. But for dosages above that -- and some body-builders have been known to take up to 100 times the "replacement dose" -- there's been almost no research, especially on long-term effects.
There is, for example, no established link between steroid use and either brain or pituitary tumors. Studies have shown a connection between orally ingested steroids and liver tumors, yet according to Harrison Pope, director of the biological psychiatry laboratory at Harvard Medical School's McLean Hospital and a longtime serious weightlifter, these are exceedingly rare. Furthermore, the vast majority of steroids today are taken topically or by injection, and are therefore not toxic to the liver in the same way. Researchers don't even list brain cancer among their concerns with steroid use.
And then there's "roid rage ," the uncontrollable bursts of anger that have been blamed for assaults and, in a few cases, murders. High levels of testosterone are linked to aggression (they're also linked to an increased sense of well-being, which is why it was used as an antidepressant until the mid-1980s). But Charles Yesalis, a steroids expert and epidemiologist at Penn State, remains slightly dubious of the causality. "You will occasionally see some increase in aggression," Yesalis says, but "it will probably be very mild. ... You take a state college on any given weekend and you will see as many cases of alcohol-induced rage as you will see in a hundred years with anabolic steroids."
But even if the drugs aren't particularly dangerous to athletes, do they nonetheless discredit their achievements on the field? Are they, in other words, dangerous to sport itself?
Maxwell J. Mehlman, a law and bioethics professor at Case Western Reserve University, doesn't think so: "I see no difference between an achievement due to drugs and achievements due to changing equipment, like the fiberglass pole in pole vaulting or oversized tennis rackets." The difference, he argues, between gains due to a juiced baseball and juiced baseball players "ultimately boils down to a matter of taste, of aesthetics."
It's possible to extend Mehlman's argument back through a long history of now-accepted innovations once decried as counter to the spirit of sport: cleats, for example, or synthetic running tracks, or specially designed low-drag swimsuits.
One of Fost's favorite examples of what he calls "the hypocrisy and the moral incoherence of the anti-drug hysteria movement" is that of erythropoietin, or EPO, which physiologically replicates the effects of training at altitude or sleeping in a low-oxygen tent. But the latter two are approved of, while EPO use is banned.
In the end, questions of harm are also questions of risk. Fost points out that we're perfectly willing -- in fact, eager -- to watch athletes risk their lives by skiing at 80 miles per hour down an icy slope or jumping off a high dive or playing football.
"The major risk of disability from the lure of fame and fortune of sport is the sport itself," Fost says. "Steroids are just way, way low on the list in terms of the risk of getting hurt or dying."
01-15-2005, 05:57 PM #2
Thanks bro, you can consider this post "bookmarked" !!!
01-15-2005, 06:04 PM #3
01-15-2005, 06:45 PM #4
TY good read.
01-16-2005, 10:27 PM #5
gonna give this a bump to make sure more are able to read it.
01-17-2005, 03:38 PM #6Member
- Join Date
- May 2004
01-17-2005, 04:45 PM #7
finally the media gets something right
01-17-2005, 04:51 PM #8Member
- Join Date
- Nov 2004
- So. Cal
Thanks Igotjuice....nice to see some factual information being reported in the media.
01-17-2005, 05:16 PM #9
For those who may have missed the NYTimes article I posted a while back.....it tackles the same subject but from a different perspective....a societal one
Finally Someone in Mainstream Media Gets it- A great read
01-17-2005, 10:39 PM #10
01-30-2005, 07:36 AM #11
WOW fantastic read, thanks
Users Browsing this Thread
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)