After writing my article about how fitness can help prevent drug abuse, one question I was asked was:

“Doesn’t fitness actually introduces you to the drug world, like steroids?”

I was stumped!

It’s no surprise that steroids are very present in the fitness world. After being asked that question, it made me sit down and think it through. What causes someone to use steroids…and can fitness actually be a gateway?

But before we can get into that, let’s talk about the history of steroids and how it came to be:

Anabolic steroid is a human-made version of testosterone. In the 1930s, a group of scientists created synthetic testosterone for men who couldn’t naturally produce it in their bodies. During World War II, the German Army actually administered synthetic testosterone to their troops in the hopes of creating “super soldiers”. The mission was to make sure that the German army “could withstand the burdens and hurdles that no normal man could.

So what do steroids actually do?

The human body naturally produces estrogen and testosterone. When testosterone is taken in higher doses than the body normally makes, it can help reduce inflammation, swelling, and autoimmune disease. Doctors prescribe steroids (in very small doses) to people who suffer from asthma, arthritis, lupus, and Crohn’s disease. However, steroids have also assisted in repairing muscle tissue at a faster rate and can enhance athletic performance.

Which means for someone who’s a competitive athlete, steroids sound awesome. But it’s also considered cheating and without proper prescription…highly illegal.

The first act of athletes using testosterone was in the mid-1950s. Soviets injected synthetic testosterone to their Olympic athletes, making sure they performed at the highest caliber. Once American physician, Dr. John Bosley Ziegler, created a more selective form of testosterone (a.k.a. steroids), the drug became “increasingly popular among Olympic athletes.” That is until organizations like USADA and WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, came into the sports scene to make sure all professional athletes play clean.

Why are steroids illegal in sport?

When steroid use goes unattended, it can wreak havoc on your body. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), long-term use of steroids can lead to serious and even permanent health problems. Some side effects are liver disease, kidney failure, heart attack or stroke, and cancer! Therefore no sports organization wants to support something that leads to severe health risks for the sake of athletic performance (although this is very questionable in certain sports…but I digress).

We’ve seen some major athletes cut down in their prime from Mark McGwire to Lance Armstrong due to steroid use. In recent news athlete Ricky Garard, the third place winner in the 2017 CrossFit Games, was disqualified and stripped of his title after testing positive for two banned substances. To someone who’s new in the fitness world, it looks like steroids are only running rampant in professional athletes, right?

Wrong!

The vast majority of people who take steroids are not athletes!

Steroid users, mostly men, are doing it for the sole purpose of wanting to look more buff. Dr. Harrison Pope, director of the Biological Psychiatry Lab at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, says we’re being given unrealistic images of the human body every day. From where you ask? Hollywood movies, magazines, video games, even toys (have you seen a G.I. Joe action figure!?).

In Pope’s recent study, the “ideal figure” has shifted so drastically that the images we see actually contributes to low body image, especially in men:

“There’s this drumbeat that muscularity equals masculinity, and so we’re seeing more and more young men with muscle dysmorphia.”

When men don’t see the results they want in their bodies, they turn to steroids in the hopes of creating the perfect physique…not knowing that this could be damaging, physically and mentally. And since steroid use for fitness is illegal, many men don’t even tell their doctors and run the risk of causing harm to their internal organs for exterior results.

So back to the question at hand: can fitness be a gateway to steroids?

In my opinion, yes AND no.

It’s apparent that physical fitness can bring out the best, and the worst, in people. However, after much research, fitness might not be the main culprit. In fact, steroid use seems more like a psychological issue:

The need to look and perform a certain way in order to be satisfied.

At the end of the day, it’s up to the individual to open that door and understand what they’re getting themselves into…and if it’s worth it.

We’re very aware that society thrives off of us feeling like crap in order to sell things. People love winners right? Naturally, when you get into the fitness industry, the steroid conversation will definitely pop up. And it’s your choice to partake in it or not. There are professional athletes out there who are very aware of steroids and don’t even touch it. So in the end, you go at your own risk.

Do you think fitness is a gateway to steroid use? Leave a comment below and let me know. Also if you like this post, make sure you share it with friends and family.

Til next time homies,

Photo by Angel Sinigersky on Unsplash