Rumors have been swirling around Barry Bonds for the last few years that his sudden and thoroughly unprecedented uptick in offensive production is the result of performance enhancing steroids. Although as of the time this article was written nothing has yet been proven one way or the other, a simple comparison of Barry Bonds’ musculature from as recently as the early 90s to today reveals a shocking change in physicality. If you go even further back and compare Bonds’ rookie card to this 2005 card, the difference is beyond shocking, it’sÃ¢Â?Â¦wellÃ¢Â?Â¦almost conclusive. Almost.
Why would an athlete with all the natural gifts Bonds was born with take a chance on performance enhancing steroids? Even before he became a bona fide contender to break Henry Aaron’s home run record-something he never was before the last 90s-he was considered one of the best players in the game, a perpetual All-Star, a seasonal MVP candidate. If it turns out that Bonds does break Aaron’s record, and if it turns out that he did indeed rely on steroids for help in breaking that record, his legacy won’t be the record itself. It will be that nagging question: Why did he do it?
Even if every professional athlete in America were regularly tested for steroids four times a year, it still wouldn’t even begin to reveal the extent of steroid use in this country. The problem gets it media authority because of athlete abuse, but if an unannounced test were mandated of every person in America tomorrow, the results would show steroid abuse in probably every single industry: doctors, teachers, sales clerks, engineers, farmers, entertainers. That fact isn’t meant to be alarmist; in fact, most of the people who work those jobs and all others don’t use performance enhancing steroids. But the fact that so many do whose job doesn’t require professional-caliber athleticism brings to mind that nagging question again: Why do they do it?
What is the point of using steroids? For that matter, what are steroids and what do they really do? Here’s the quick and easy answer: Anabolic steroids are, for the most part, synthetic chemicals that successfully imitate the effects of the male hormone testosterone. They have legitimate medical purposes, such as treating growth and development problems in certain people, as well as treating a variety of illnesses and diseases. They can be taken orally or by injection. But their popularity for their illegal uses is just as great, if not greater, than their popularity for legitimate medical uses.
Taken in low doses-the kind of dose recommended for those legal medical reasons-steroids have been shown to do very little in terms of increasing one’s strength. The reason they have been criminalized is because in order for steroids to do any good at making one bulkier and stronger, the dosage has to be ramped up. Not only that, but most of the time the dose contains a mixture of different types of steroids. The result of increased dosage and mixing can be several unpleasant, not to mention dangerous, side effects.
Among the side effects noticed among men: Decreased sperm count to the point where technical it would be described as chemical castration; enlarged breasts; sleeping problems, and even unsightly stretch marks. Side effects women may notice include: an increase in body hair, enlargement of the clitoris, a deepening in their voice, and menstrual problems.
In addition, because it is up the liver to do the job of processing those chemicals, any number of liver problems have been associated with steroid abuse, ranging from jaundice to tumors. And if you think that simply looking a little yellow as a result of jaundice is no big deal, consider the possibility of choleostatic jaundice in which backed up bile actually enters the bloodstream. That’s not even to mention heart problems, increased cholesterol-the bad kind, not the good kind-and mood disorders. One might be tempted to add mood swings as further evidence of Bonds’ use of steroids, but he was a pretty moody guy even early in his career, so we’ll let that one fly.
Besides, when it comes to performance enhancing steroids we’re not just talking about hopping back and forth between happy and depressed; even moderate use of steroids can result in behavior marked by disproportionate violence. Steroid abuse has been blamed for everything from domestic abuse to murder to suicide. These are serious cases of mood disorders we’re talking about here. It probably goes without saying that many users become addicted and find it incredibly difficult to kick the habit. Adding insult to injury is the fact that once they are successful in getting off the steroids, they’ll probably quickly lose all the bulk the steroids brought.
Since it can be assumed that any user of steroids faces not only these, but several other unpleasant possibilities when he chooses to go the performance enhancing drug route, we’re back at that question again: Why use them?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question takes far less time than the explanation for why one shouldn’t take steroids: Can you think an easier way to pack on 30 pounds of muscle in just a few months?