Recent paper I wrote for my English class. I am currently a freshman at Columbus State Community College. Please don't discredit my work because I am a freshman or because I go to community college.
American as Apple Pie
January 23, 1984, American wrestler Hulk Hogan did the unthinkable. For several years prior to Hulk Hogan branding Hulkamania™, the United States of America was faced with a potential war with Iran. In America, The Hulk was faced with his own war, the evil, Iron Sheik, hailing from Tehran, Iran. Ronald Reagan may have freed the hostages but the Iron Sheik still held the championship belt. Hulk Hogan got out of the Sheiks’ infamous “iron clutch”, got him on his back and dropped the “big leg”. Hogan defended America, won the title and the advice he gave to the future generations that aspired to his ripped, tan, larger than life success was, “train, say your prayers, eat your vitamins, be true to yourself, true to your country, be a real American.” Later, Hogan admitted his famous physique was the result of 12 years of anabolic steroids. Hogan was crucified for this, and since the late 1980’s with Ben Johnson’s controversial victory at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, steroids have been a re-enactment for what the Salem Witch Trials were 300 years prior with the witch’s brew. The media frenzy stood behind a campaign with all smoke and no fire to persecute elite athletes, with this popular military drum beat; I will march in the opposite direction determined to make known that the argument against steroids, masked as a solid brick full of evidence, is actually as thin as a playing card if looked at from the right angle. This essay focuses on those that use steroids professionally and recreationally, for cosmetic use, per se. I am currently pursuing professional bodybuilding which can be considered a cosmetic sport, when one sculpts their physique into a piece of artwork, evenly distributed in muscularity and symmetry. Since steroids were added to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act in the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990, it is illegal for one to purchase steroids for personal use even though these drugs do not lead to physical or psychological dependence. I believe the “hoopla” concerning the dangers of anabolic steroid use is a boogeyman’s tale told by politicians and general manages of professional sports associations to scare America and its “at all costs” motto when striving for success; and I argue that steroids offer many benefits beyond sports but because of scandals like BALCO, the reverberations have made steroids illegal for physicians to prescribe, unless for medical purposes.
The United States of America defines itself as the biggest, strongest and fastest country in the world. America is considered the land of the free and the home of the brave, where the American Dream can be found and achieved. Metaphorically we are a nation on steroids. Is it any surprise that so many of our heroes use performance-enhancing drugs? When you discover that your heroes have broken the rules, do you follow the rules, or do you follow your heroes? (“Bigger Stronger Faster”).
I believe steroids are as American as apple pie. Everyone uses performance enhancing technology and drugs. We use cars and computers to make our work more efficient, we use caffeine, alcohol and Viagra to improve our performance. Every athlete in recorded history has used performance-enhancing drugs. Babylonians and Russians used herbs to perform better in battle; Ancient Greeks ate sheep testicles to raise their testosterone levels, Kenyan runners trained at higher altitudes to improve their oxygen carrying capacity. “Why is their a replay of the Salem Witch Trials to discredit, humiliate and incarcerate elite athletes for doing what has been a standard practice for a millennium?” (Fost). Dr. Norman Fost, a professor of pediatric medicine and director of the Program in Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, states the maelstrom is nothing more than a “hypocrisy, bad facts, inconsistency, and moral incoherence of anti-drug hysteria” (Leroux 1). Of course steroids aren’t safe just because one doctor says, but Dr. Fost has one of the most stellar résumés in the world. He has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton, his M.D. from Yale. His residency was at Johns Hopkins and his master’s in public health came from Harvard. If one didn’t know of Dr. Fost’s credentials he would be scrutinized by mainstream society, but even with his background many call him “the wacko in Wisconsin.” Fost claims, “NPR called me ‘the loneliest man in America’... The president of the university has forwarded letters from alumni saying they are withdrawing their financial support because of me. I’ve had sportswriters tell me to wake up to the modern world.” Fost as well many other doctors that are skeptical to the tirade against steroids are risking their livelihood to denounce the arguments against steroids.
Eric Serrano was a record-breaking powerlifter, now he is called Dr. Serrano, a graduate of Kansas State University, with a medical degree from Kansas University. Dr. Serrano has worked with a wide array of elite athletes in various fields from bodybuilders competing in the Mr. Olympia to athletes in the NHL, NFL, and MLB. He is sought out by athletes around the world for help with the most difficult problems. I interviewed Dr. Serrano and he told me, “they should allow physicians to “control the patient” so the patient doesn't screw up.” He believes that steroids shouldn’t be sold like an over-the-counter medicine, rather it should be in the hands of a doctor. If steroids were in the hands of a doctor, patients would be able to receive blood tests and visit their doctor monthly or even weekly to validate their health. I am grateful for the ability to interview the “crutch to the athletes limp,” Dr. Eric Serrano, although with his help an athlete won’t need crutches because he or she will be walking just fine.
There are so many ways for one to enhance their performance that it is hard to make a generalized statement about cheating. For example, Tiger Woods had lasik eye surgery and now his vision is 20/15, which is better than perfect. In a game that relies so much on depth perception wouldn’t superhuman vision be a performance enhancement? Also, U.S. pilots stay awake while flying by taking a drug nicknamed “go-pills,” which is dextro-amphetamine (“Bigger Stronger Faster”). The director of Globalsecurity.org remarked that it is, ”better bombing through chemistry.” In 2002, over Afghanistan, two American pilots on go-pills bombed a group of friendly Canadiens; 4 were killed and the charges were dropped against the American pilots after they blamed go-pills for the accident (“Bigger Stronger Faster”). In no other country is an amphetamine allowed to be taken in the military, but in America we require it. Another example of a performance enhancement drug would be “beta-blockers” which prevent people from getting nervous. Professional musicians and other people that are required to perform on stage take “beta-blockers,” known as Propranolol, which lowers blood pressure by blocking particular sympathetic nervous system receptors (“Bigger Stronger Faster”). If some people take Propranolol and others don’t before an audition, wouldn’t those that use Propranolol have an unfair advantage? In academics, students use a powerful stimulant very much like cocaine or methamphetamine called adderall. Between November of 2004 and October of 2005 over 5.5 million prescriptions of the drug were prescribed to adolescents (“Bigger Stronger Faster”).
So it is ok for me to enhance my performance if I am a pilot (dextro-amphetamine), a musician (propranolol), or a student (adderall), but if I take steroids as a professional baseball player then it is considered cheating. Let’s forget about morality for a second, what about your health?
Steroids will kill you. In response, show me the bodies? “What happens is these talking heads that babble on TV give us this rhetoric that comes from not one single expert. They say ridiculous things like steroids will kill you, rot your kidneys, and give you cancer... which just aren’t true” (“Bigger Stronger Faster”). Steroids are prescribed by doctors for patients that suffer from hypogonadism, angioedema, anemia, breast cancer, decreased fibrinolytic activity, infertility (male), growth failure, libido (female), osteoporosis, Turner’s and Klinefelter’s syndrome, weight loss/muscle wasting, and HIV. How can one argue that if a healthy adult or athlete takes steroids he or she will die, yet many people are prescribed steroids when they are sick and dying to live? If we are so worried about the health of the nation how can we possibly allow people to drink and smoke. 435,000 people a year die from tobacco, and 85,000 people a year die from alcohol. It is safe to say that the drug and tobacco companies that support the congressional reelection campaigns are immune from the laws of “concern for the well-being of others.” Our nation is about politics, steroids are public enemy number one because not a lot of people use them. It is a very small, select group of people, athletes and gym rats, which is an easy minority to attack. Politicians are always looking for an issue to get behind, they are always looking for something to be able to say to the public, “hey look at what my legislation is doing, look at what my bill has done, I am out there, I am protecting you and your children.” Well, before we let these politicians use power over factual evidence, lets analyze steroids.
What are steroids? Many argue that it is simply unnatural to inject or orally ingest a steroid into their body. First of all, the term steroids is often misused to describe any performance enhancing drug. Did you know that birth control drugs are a type of steroid? Steroids are synthetic versions of hormones that one’s body produces naturally. The steroids that get all of the negative attention are anabolic steroids made form the male sex hormone testosterone which tells the body to increase size and strength. Like any drug, anabolic steroids do have side effects, and if one abuses them they will be worse. For men they can cause acne, hair growth, raise cholesterol, shrink one’s testicles, and lower one’s sperm count, but all of these side effects are reversible when one gets off the drugs (“Bigger Stronger Faster”). Steroids are a type of medicine and like any medicine their is a benefit to risk factor based on our genetic code. One can take steroids and experience none of the side effects, another can take steroids and experience them all. There are people who after eating a peanut die from anaphylactic shock; I don’t see the government banning peanuts because those people died.
With a doctors supervision, steroid usage could be our “fountain of youth,” but instead we prohibit them which just leads to them being manufactured illegally like the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920‘s. Even worse, due to its scarcity and illegal production, their are counterfeit steroids and steroids engineered in unclean home-laboratories. Most home-labs aren’t likely to pass an inspection if the government facilitated one. By walking on a broken foot we will only continuously injure ourselves. Through natural body modifications like weight lifting one experiences an anabolic chain reaction inside the body. In a a nutshell, this anabolic chain reaction is the endocrinology of muscle growth; it is what allows one’s body from the time one picks up a weight to the time one’s muscles are repaired, stronger, and ready for more. “... [W]e have identified, and are [now able to experiment with due to today’s technology] with dozens of growth factors that were unheard of [in the 1960’s when anabolic steroids were first invented]” (Llewellyn 60). It is a new world today, we know enough to enhance performance in many exciting new ways. “When we start to see muscle growth from various angles and intricacies, we begin to see our potential opportunities for successful exploitation. How many of these opportunities you act upon will depend on your goals and interests” (60). So, in a sport like professional wrestling where steroid use isn’t illegal, but in a country where its use is prohibited, it seems obstinate to view our newfound powers as unfortunate. By dismantling our potential progress as a human race we leave the small percentage of those that are required to take steroids due to their career paths with quite the paradox.
Differentiating right from wrong is ideal when living in a law-abiding culture. It is hard for me to consider myself a man who bears a moral compass when my future faces living the same paradox. Steroids are illegal in the United States of America, yet in the International Federation of Bodybuilders the use of performance enhancing drugs are permitted. As a steroid-free bodybuilder I know that one day my virginity will be taken by the iron asylum of diuretic pill poppers, and testosterone injecting mammoths. Freaks! In professional sports, steroid use isn’t accepted, but even more dangerous drugs like insulin are used because these are undetectable drugs. Where will we draw the line when it comes to morality and steroid use? People prefer to view professional athletes as heros rather than human beings flawed by the universal quest to success and excel, whether by using drugs, devices or other means. Rob Goodman wrote the article, Stop Misusing the Word Hero, he states that we are suffering from hero inflation. Many people trivialize both heroism and sports by considering the “hero” as being a job description. He argues, “The hero’s role is not to provide moral uplift… we are naturally in awe of those who single-mindedly chase personal excellence, no matter how vain, or selfish” (Goodman 1). We celebrate athletes for behavior that would be self-destructive, for instance abandoning prudence and health for glory. Yet, steroids are considered amoral because steroid users are bad role models for kids. I’m more concerned with sexual assault, drunk driving and other things kids see athletes doing. It is hypocritical that we honor athletes who are boastful—think of Babe Ruth pointing his finger towards the outfield stands, calling his home-run shot. Even worse, we celebrate athletes that humiliate their opponents because it is that very essence that captures the power of athletic heroism. Rob wraps up the article stating, “…sports are a cathartic outlet, a place of outsize passions and unfamiliar moral rules—a vacation from virtue” (Goodman 3).
If I play a sport and steroids are against the rules then I am flat out cheating. Many people question whether it’s cheating if everyone is doing it. I argue that the steroid scandal is as corrupted as the organizations themselves, but two wrongs don’t make a right. If I look in the IFBB rulebook, there is no mention of steroids, thus the use of these drugs isn’t illegal unless I buy and use them in a country where they are banned.
I believe my proposal above seems valid, but we face a double standard. By any means necessary is the attitude of not only major league baseball players but also its managers. Players and coaches have admitted to injecting steroids, spitting on baseballs before pitching, corking a bat, using cocaine and amphetamines, and committing illegal acts in the recruitment process. All sports face cheating, but what is worse is that one can’t specifically narrow steroid use as the only mechanism for cheating even though that is what people are trying to do. And what about the hero?
To make sports fair should everyone play naked, as well as follow the same diet plan as their fellow teammates and opponents? Where does the buck stop? Surely demonizing steroids isn’t a way to go about our competitive culture. What if they are the future of medicine? Steroids have been proven to be fairly safe yet because of their demonization they are lumped together as one big health risk. There are over 200 different types of steroids, all of which have different effects, risks and uses. Yet, things like bungee jumping, undergoing plastic surgery, smoking and drinking are legal. I have learned how interesting it is when we decide what is legal and what is illegal.
How are we supposed to follow the rules when the people we emulate do not? In America we see the success of others every day – The nicer car being driven next to you on your way to work. It seems heroic ideals in sports are much more of a moral dilemma. As far as I am concerned, who are you to judge me for my morals and who am I to judge you for yours? As long as what we are doing doesn’t hurt the life of others, what we do in our own homes is our own business.
In closing, the philosophy of training, saying one’s prayers, taking vitamins, and being true to one’s self will get one only so far. In America, second place is the first loser and those that win at all costs are the real heros. The embellishment made by congressional hearings, news stations and those in power everywhere has created a “steroid madness” similar to the “reefer madness,” 70 years ago. Steroids are not the problem, they are just another side effect of being an American (“Bigger Stronger Faster”).
Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Dir. Christopher Bell. Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2008. Film.
Goodman, Rob. "Stop Misusing the Word Hero." The Atlantic. Idea of the Day, 23 July 2009. Web. 6 November 2010.
Leroux, Charles. “As Controversy Swirls, Medial Ethicist Remains a Center of Calm and Certainty.” Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune. 15 January 2008. Web. 6 November 2010.
Llewellyn, William. Anabolics 9th Edition. Jupiter, FL: Molecular Nutrition, LLC. 2009. Print.
Serrano, Eric. Personal Interview. 6 November 2010.