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Steroids in Sports: Questions Answered

Get Answers to 16 Questions About Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Baseball and Other Sports

How much do they enhance performance? Are we talking about a tiny edge?

You're not going to take somebody like me and make me, when I was younger, into a professional baseball player. This is somebody who's already there and you give them the 1% enhancement.

The best way to look at that is if you look at the world records for the 1 mile from 1880 through to the modern day. They improved by about 1% every four years. So if I can improve your performance by 1%, I put you four years ahead of everybody else. So if you're not quite that good, I put you as good as everybody else. If you're really good, I put you four years ahead of where the rest of the people are going to be with modern training methods and so on.

Amphetamines do the same thing for focus.

What are some of the side effects for adult players?

This is the question. We don't really know. Obviously, people don't admit and we haven't been able to follow people taking steroids over a long period of time. The potential of liver damage is clearly one of those [risks], because steroids have a first pass through the liver. In addition ... there's a question of whether it would increase neoplastic disease [cancer], either in the prostate or in other parts of the body.

If the use is relatively short-term, a couple of years, the effects may be minimal. Lots of sports players who've done this are turning up with diseases and problems.

We need some major, good studies looking at long-term effects within sport.

Amphetamines certainly create high-strung behaviors, bizarre behaviors, much more than any of the other drugs

In women, [steroids have] huge effects on hirsutism (excess hair) and effects on potential reproductive ability. Female athletes do it; they just seem to be less likely to be caught at the moment.

How widespread are these drugs among younger players?

We don't know. If I'm a young boy, or young girl for that matter, and I'm looking to be successful -- and when you're young, you really care about winning -- and when you see your heroes doing this, they become a role model. That's a very bad role model.

I think we've got a problem because as you go to younger kids, clearly this is not something you want to be doing and certainly, around puberty this could be a total disaster.

What are some of the side effects for younger players?

Younger players you can get alterations in growth, in particular. The other big potential effect is the effect on behaviors, the so-called " roid rage."

How young are some players starting?

I think we've got people -- 12-, 13-, 14-year-olds -- who certainly see this as something that's worthwhile.

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