Problems with Steroids in Football

Chris JohnsonContributor IIJuly 29, 2009

SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 07:  Linebacker Shawne Merriman #56 of the San Diego Chargers exhorts the crowd against the Carolina Panthers on September 7, 2008 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Panthers won 26-24.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

A hot topic in sports news today is that of performance enhancing drugs. This issue has been a concern of many who either watch or participate in sports.

With growing concern, we as sports fans have seen an influx of investigations, senate probes, and speculative reports of these performance enhancing drugs effect on the sports.

Why is it that many professional athletes have to use drugs to improve there game? Is it the pressure they feel to keep playing the sport? Is it due to expectations of owners and fans alike?

One of the biggest examples of how a player will end up using these types of drugs is the late Lyle Alzado. Alzado played for the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders of the NFL, as a defensive lineman.

In 1992, Alzado died from a brain tumor, which he attributed to his use of anabolic steroids. Alzado weighed only 98 pounds when he died at the age of 43.

Shortly before his death he stated in a Sports Illustrated article, “I started taking anabolic steroids in 1969 and never stopped. It was addicting, mentally addicting. Now I’m sick, and I’m scared. Ninety percent of the athletes I know are on the stuff. We’re not born to be 300 lbs or jump 30 ft. But all the time I was taking steroids, I knew they were making me play better. I became very violent on the field and off it. I did things only crazy people do. Once a guy sideswiped my car and I beat the hell out of him. Now look at me. My hair’s gone, I wobble when I walk and have to hold onto someone for support, and I have trouble remembering things. My last wish? That no one else dies this way.”

In most recent studies the use of performance enhancing drugs has caused concern that this issue will not go away. The NCAA has figures on the records that one percent of all college football players have failed drug tests taken at bowl games, and three percent have admitted using steroids overall. 

Steve Courson, another defensive lineman with the Pittsburgh Steelers, admitted to having used steroids prior to his death in 2005. He blamed a heart condition on his use of steroids.
Former Oakland Raider Bill Romanowski admitted on 60 Minutes he took steroids for two years. Romanowski stated, “I took HGH (human growth hormone) for a brief period and…I definitely didn’t receive what I got out of THG.”

In 2006, Shawne Merriman, a linebacker with the San Diego Chargers, failed a drug test and was suspended for four games when his primary “A” sample and backup “B” sample both tested positive for human growth (HGH).

Merriman was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2005 and was a starter in the 2005 Pro Bowl. The incident led to a new rule that forbids a player who tests positive for steroid use from being selected to the Pro Bowl. The rule is commonly known as the "Merriman Rule."

Many players ignored the NFL drug policy, so NFL Players Association Director Gene Upshaw sent out a letter to all NFL players stating, "Over the past few years, we have made a special effort to educate and warn players about the risks involved in the use of "nutritional supplements."

Despite these efforts, several players have been suspended even though their positive test result may have been due to the use of nutritional supplements.

Under the policy, you and you alone are responsible for what goes into your body. As the policy clearly warns, supplements are not regulated or monitored by the government. This means that even if they are bought over-the-counter from a known establishment, there is simply no way to be sure that they:

a—contain the ingredients listed on the package

b—have not been tainted with prohibited substances

c—have the propertied or effects claimed by the manufacturer or salesperson.

"Therefore, if you take these products, you do so AT YOUR OWN RISK! The risk is at least a four-game suspension without pay if a prohibited substance is detected in your system. For your own health and success in the league, we strongly encourage you to avoid the use of supplements altogether, or at the very least to be extremely careful about what you choose to take."

With the use of these performance enhancing drugs, there is a list of health and personal issues at stake.

Heart disease
High blood pressure
Heart attacks
Cardiovascular disease
Coronary artery disease
Testicular atrophy
Liver damage
Cardiac arrhythmia
Congestive heart failure
Sudden cardiac death

But there is a more important aspect that’s not been mentioned. We as spectators, love a hero. The truest nature of a sportsman is to compete at the highest level with skill and agility.

Kids chose a sports hero to emulate. Should our children wish to emulate someone who uses drugs to improve their performance, what are we telling our children?

If athletes have to rely on there abilities “out-of-a-bottle,” then they cheapen the sport.

Let’s face the facts, we all get older, that’s just the way it is. God gave people special skills to play the game, as spectators or athletes, we have a chose to live our dreams. But putting our lives in jeopardy for a sport is not what life is about.