Doping in Professional and Amateur Athletics
~ Alanna Insalaco

            Doping in sports has been around for ages

it was first reported with the ancient Greeks, but

more likely than not it was around before then.

Unfortunately, in the years since those ancient

times, doping has become much more dangerous,

and a less accepted cultural norm. People have

turned away from simply changing up their diet or

using ointments and rubs, and have instead turned

to their more dangerous counterparts such as anabolic steroids or blood oxygenation enhancement. Doping has come a long way from its earlier days, and it has as much of an effect on the body, as it does on the economy.

            Anabolic steroids started back in the 1930s by a team of German scientists, when they created a synthetic version of the male hormone testosterone. The drug was originally created to aid men with a testosterone deficiency, then moved on and was given to soldiers during World War II when scientists noticed that it could be used to increase strength and could be a upper hand against the enemy. Steroids were not used in athletics until sometime in the 1950s, when they were used by athletes who needed a strength boost during the Olympics. Dianabol was the next biggest advancement in anabolic steroids, according to Bryan E. Denham, “'D-Bol' became the steroid of choice among professional football players because of its strong anabolic, or muscle-building, effects and relatively modest effects on the androgenic side – that is, the side involving male sexual characteristics such as beard growth and voice depth” (57). After the creation of Dianabol, steroid use among weightlifters and NFL players increased exponentially. In 1975, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned the use of steroids in Olympic competition, this was the first preventative measure taken against steroid use, and it proved itself in 1988 when the 100 meter dash record was annihilated by Ben Johnson. After testing positive for steroids though, Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold metal and world record.

            The next biggest step for the banning of steroids was also in 1988 during the Tour de France when the Festina team director was found carrying a large quantity of steroids. He later admitted to administering steroids to his team members. This scandal prompted the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 1999, and it remains to this day as the world’s best working system against doping.

            Steroids became increasingly widespread in America around the same time WADA was established, notably in baseball, “Three players collectively surpassed the thirty seven year old single season home run record of sixty-one home runs by Roger Marris in 1961 six times (Gandert 819). Shortly after this happened, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) was found to have been supplying steroids to athletes, these athletes included: Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield (Kondro 1466).

            There are many benefits to doping, probably as many benefits as there are drawbacks, but it all depends on one’s body and what drug one is administering. In a journal by Daniel Gandert and Fabian Ronisky, they explained some of the reasons why athletes dope, “Athletes dope to increase strength and muscle size, shorten the time their bodies need to recover from injuries and workouts, reduce body fat, and improve their ability to train for longer periods of time at a high intensity” (817). They also explained blood oxygenation enhancement and how it increases a person's level of hemoglobin, in order to add to the amount of oxygen a person can absorb into their bodies, which in turn, improves performance on the track.

            All steroids can have a negative effect too though. Such as anabolic steroids, some of the side effects include: decreased sperm production, enlargement of breast tissue, over-retention of fluid leading to hypertension or heart disease, biochemical effects on the liver, feminization in men, masculization in women, violent mood swings, paranoia, or enlargement of the clitoris (Tynes 495). It can also lead to testicular atrophy and gynaecomastia (Denham 57).

            Of course, as with most medications, steroids are good when they are prescribed or used correctly, but when used incorrectly, excessively, or without a doctor’s supervision or knowledge, bad things can occur. Some of the side effects, such as gynaecomastia, can be avoided simply by using the steroid correctly. A common mistake made by athletes who develop this, is that they stop taking the steroid all at once, and the body has already at that point stopped manufacturing its own testosterone.

            In athletics, being the bigger, stronger and faster athlete is a major component to getting a position on a team, so most people can see why athletes have turned to doping. Most fans would like to believe that their favorite athlete is on the field because of their own natural talents, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that this is not at all the case. A common tale told to children is the story of Babe Ruth, how he rose from the slums of Baltimore, Maryland to become one of the worlds most renowned baseball players the world had ever seen, the problem is that this story can “beguile us into thinking that the lifestyles of the rich and famous are within reach of all, and uphold rags-to-riches stories as exemplary (“if this enterprising slumdog can do it against all odds, so can you!” goes the storyline). All this gets drummed into people's heads to the point that they only blame themselves for their lot and don't think of questioning the rules of the game” (Arora 91). The problem is that the game is fundamentally flawed, the entire system is rigged to make money. There are massive loopholes everywhere allowing the players to get away with doping, which increases the amount of money made. Daniel Gandert and Fabian Ronisky explain this in perfect terms:

           Both owners and players financially benefit from doping. Players that dope usually perform better. The better the athletes perform, the more revenue the owners make. The more revenue the owners make, the more valuable players are to their owners. The more valuable players are, the higher their salaries are.

            Doping is beneficial to almost anyone involved, except the people who are not doping and are struggling to stay afloat among all the doping professionals.

            There have been a lot of laws and regulations put in place to try and prevent doping from escalating any further than it already has: Anabolic Steroid Control Act (1990), Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act (1987), Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (1994), Anabolic Steroid Control Act (2004), Amateur Sports Integrity Act (2000), and many more. Not many of these have been successful in curbing the use of steroids though. There are organizations upon organizations that are trying to control the use of steroids, not many of them very successfully. One of the most successful organizations is the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

            WADA is an independent agency that works internationally to try and prevent doping. The Code, a uniform set of anti-doping rules, was established in 2002 and replaced the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code from 1999, and it was revised in 2009. WADA also released a Prohibited List in 2010 that lists all of the banned substances such as “anabolic steroids, peptide hormones, growth factors, Beta-2 agonists, hormone agonists and modulators, diuretics, and other masking agents, and doping methods” (Gandert 830).  The reason why WADA is so effective is because they make no money off of the winning players, so they are not persuaded to make lenient rules.

            Regulation doping in America however, is much different. America refuses to adapt and allow WADA to monitor their doping, there is too much money to be made without using WADA. The NFL, for example, does not allow testing on game day, and they have a very structured in-season only testing policy, “[m]any experts, including Gary Wadler from WADA, believe the NFL's predictable testing framework allows athletes to outmaneuver testing with fast acting steroids and masking agents” (Gandert 832). Another issue is that no one may sit in with an athlete who is making up a urine sample, allowing him to easily use someone else’s urine. Also, the NFL does not do blood testing of any kind, so they cannot test for the Human Growth Hormone (HGH), and so many athletes are likely ducking under the radar.

            Most people who are against behaviors such as doping would agree that a system similar to the World Anti-Doping Agency should also be implemented here in America. An unaffiliated and independent agency would be much harsher in their decisions. An example of this would be WADA, “While the NFL, whose penalties are much harsher than those in boxing, punished first time offenders with a four-month suspension and second time offenders with an eight-month suspension, the WADA Code punishes first time offenders with a two-year suspension and second time offenders with a lifetime ban” (Gandert 841). WADA also tests for a lot more drugs than anything American.

            A remedy is something we are in desperate need of though. Professional sports is one thing, there is money loss and pain, health effects and the works. But, amateur sports are also being affected by the professionals doping: “Numerous studies conducted in the 1990s revealed that steroid use had increased among teenage athletes and one study concluded that nearly one million adolescents had taken steroids at some point” (Tynes 494). This can no longer be tolerated, steroids can have much worse health effects on the younger population. For example, they could cause fusion in the growth plates, which could seriously impede someone’s movement as they grow.


Arora, Namit. "What Do We Deserve?" N.p., 01 Feb. 2014. Web.

Denham, Bryan E. "Adolescent Self-Perceptions and Attitudes Toward School as Determinants of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Risk Estimates and Normative Judgments." Youth & Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 June 2017.

Gandert, Daniel, and Fabian Ronisky. "American Professional Sports Is a Dopers Paradise: It's Time to Make a Change." North Dakota Law Review 86:813 (2010): 813-44. Print.

Kondro, Wayne. "Athletes' ?designer Steroid? Leads to Widening Scandal." The Lancet. N.p., 1 Nov. 2003. Web.

Tynes, Jarred. "Performance Enhancing Substances." Taylor & Francis. N.p., n.d. Web.