As a sports physical therapist dedicated to helping athletes perform at their best, I am excited to post this guest article by David Damron. David is a life-time competitive body builder who has extensive personal experience and knowledge about the use of the so called “performance enhancement” drugs. In my conversations with him, it became apparent to me that he has a lot to say about it, and the words he offers are words that young athletes need to hear. The intoxication of young athletes looking for that elixir is well known. In the clinic, I both see and take questions about performance enhancing drugs from many young athletes. I think it’s important to share what David has to say:
“I remember when I was 20 years old. 40 was a lifetime away. I will be 45 in August this year (2010). I have been a serious bodybuilder for more than 25 years. I have been using anabolic drugs for most of that time.
I competed from age 19 to 33.
At the time I started drug use, I had been working out with weights on and off for about five years. I also have many friends who are professional athletes, so I am writing this with some authoritative knowledge.
The medical community now refers to anabolic drugs as “performance enhancing.” I regret that their name is misleading. The fact is, no drug will enhance performance. A drug can only enhance physiology. The drugs are only a factor in the equation that produces performance. Neglecting the other factors that result in improved performance will render anabolic drugs useless.
To state it simply: Without proper training, rest, and nutrition, use of steroids (and all anabolic drugs) will be of no benefit to an athlete. Any drugs you take will be of no benefit unless the athlete is following a scientific regime to increase muscle mass. Yes, muscle mass. That is all anabolic drugs will do at their best. Let me say it again, only proper training, rest, and nutrition will improve an athlete’s performance.
Anyone who chooses to use drugs should first dedicate themselves to a lifestyle that promotes fitness and an anabolic metabolism. Understand how the drugs affect the body. Don’t just take advice from the biggest/ strongest guy in the gym — or from professional athletes. It is up to you to educate yourself on drug use.
Most importantly, athletes should understand the risks associated with drug use. I know at least ten people who have died because of steroid use. They have all had stokes or heart attacks – and all were under 50 years old! They all looked to be in great shape. Once drug use begins, the outward appearance of the body is no longer indicative of the health or functioning of the body’s internals (liver, kidneys, cardiovascular). Blood tests should be performed on a regular basis to check for silent killers.
There is one side effect that no one will avoid. That is the psychological effects of steroids. I cannot over emphasize the danger that steroids present to mental health. And no one is more at risk to the psychological risks than the young athlete. Let me try to articulate one such scenario. With puberty comes a rush of testosterone. That is when most young men get into trouble and probably why juveniles are subject to a different set of laws than an adult. Well, imagine increasing that testosterone level 100X. It does not take much imagination to predict the results. By the same token, imagine shutting that hormone level off. Depression is very common in athletes coming off steroids.
It is up to each athlete to educate him or herself on all the implications of drug use in sports – especially the potential adverse effects — and to decide for themselves if the risk is worth the reward.
If you chose to use drugs, educate yourself first and understand that no one avoids the side effects. Age 40 may seem like a lifetime away, but it will come. And with it will come the long term side effects of the drugs.”.