The Facts: Performance - Enhancing Drugs

I admit, before researching this topic, I figured "performance-enhancing drugs" was just a pretty name for steroids. In fact, steroids are only one form of PEDs* -- others, depending on the sport, can include valium, creatine, and various hormones and stimulants.

ESPN provides a detailed look at several different categories of drugs that could be used by athletes in its eight-part series "Drugs and Sports." There's a not-too-technical overview of how PEDs work at HowStuffWorks, and for solid information on the unsavory side effects of PEDs, check out this fact sheet from the Mayo Clinic.

Of course, many PEDs are perfectly legal, which is why organizations like the World Anti-Doping Agency define quite precisely what substances are prohibited and, for those not entirely off limits, what amounts are permissible. See WADA's 2006 list of prohibited substances for the specifics.

Valium, for instance, could reasonably be prescribed to help a nervous athlete get some sleep. But about 25 years ago, it was found that some pentathletes used the drug to calm their nerves before the shooting portion of their competition. The pentathlon organizers cooked up an ingenious solution: They scheduled the shooting and running events for the same day. So doping might help in the shooting competition, but when it came time to run, the valium-ingesting athlete would sorely regret his choice. (Source: NYT, 11/14/1983)

Prosecutions of athletes using illegal substances, however, are few and far between. According to the 1983 NYT story, "Lengthy reviews by the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command and the F.B.I. accused a number of leading United States modern pentathlon officials with drug-related violations, but the United States Attorney General's office chose not to prosecute the case."

This seems to be just as true today, so it's up to the sporting organizations themselves to enforce the rules. While Olympics officials have gotten serious about anti-doping measures, pro sports organizations in the United States haven't been so proactive. Major League Baseball, for example, addresses doping with "a lot of talk" but little action, as Sen. Jim Bunning (a baseball Hall of Famer himself) explained to the Senate in November.

Bunning expressed his disappointment with Major League Baseball in his speech introducing the Integrity in Professional Sports Act (S. 1960). Other previously-introduced anti-doping bills include: The Professional Sports Integrity Act of 2005 (H.R. 2516), The Professional Sports Integrity and Accountability Act (S. 1334), and The Clean Sports Act of 2005 (S. 1114).

Part of what Congress wanted to do by getting involved was send a message to kids that doping would not be tolerated. The Mayo Clinic offers a useful primer on teens and PEDs, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse charts some basic statistics on steroid use by teens.

For lots of helpful background information on the controversy within baseball, see PBS's News Hour interview with Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci. This article provides an inside look (subjective, but informative) into what it's like for an amateur cyclist to use these substances. BBC discusses steroid testing for soccer players vs. other sportsmen. And over at MSNBC, find a quick who's-who of the doping scandal that preceded the Athens Olympics.

* To save space and typing time, I'm shortening "performance-enhancing drugs" to "PEDs" throughout this Debate. Hope you don't mind.

By Emily Messner |  March 14, 2006; 10:06 AM ET  | Category:  Facts
Previous: This Week's Debate: Performance - Enhancing Drugs | Next: Enhancing the Team, or Just the Individual?

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Emily noted: "Prosecutions of athletes using illegal substances, however, are few and far between."

Prosecutions of anyone using illegal substances is pretty rare - that doesn't bother me either. I believe we waste too much money and effort busting/incarcerating people for pot, for example, though it does have negative personal/social effects. Should we toss Bonds in prison for his drug mistakes? How about Rush Limbaugh? Mr. Bush?

We draw some pretty arbitrary lines around mood/performance-altering drugs - over-the-counter v. prescription v. no legal possession/use - lines drawn by emotion and political grand-standing as much as facts, evidence

I'd like to see a very strong, fact-based public discussion and education campaign about substance use and abuse, so Americans can make intelligent informed decisions to avoid the nasties that have such dependence, etc effects. something a little more sophisticated than "reefer madness"

Given Chris Ford's earlier solid point about tiny differences in performance resulting in winner-takes-all results, there's a very strong incentive to take something for an edge. i'd be more impressed if pro sports would be strong and clear in what it bans, what it accepts, and treated high-profile athletes as poorly/equally as journeymen in the sport.

and - personal pet peeve - anybody convicted of major felonies like rape (Tyson) shouldn't get to return to work as a pro athlete, performing in the public eye. let him coach privately in a gym if he can't do something else.

Posted by: Mill_of_Mn | March 14, 2006 12:53 PM

Mill_of_Mn states:
"anybody convicted of major felonies like rape (Tyson) shouldn't get to return to work as a pro athlete, performing in the public eye"

I'm apt to agree with you, though that seems to throw question into the whole concept of our justice system, prisons, and the concept of rehabilitation. With that concept as well, you would need to set an arbitray level of whats acceptable/whats not. Driving under intoxication? Public intoxication? Domestic dispute? What is your justification that it must only be major felonies? The small ones are as equally bad from a role model perspective, as they encourage deviant behaviour that can lead to worse behavior later down the line.

Posted by: Freedom | March 14, 2006 01:51 PM

As far as Barry Bonds goes when he fails a drug test he's guilty. Seems to me the owners had no problem feeding players painkillers and stimulants in the past. After all how else do you "play hurt"

Posted by: clubdead | March 14, 2006 02:54 PM

In light of this performance enhancing drug scandal, I believe we should surrender in Iraq.

Posted by: Shizzle | March 14, 2006 04:42 PM

1. Thanks for the nice words on the last thread, DK, Mill_of_MN, and plantation! We more than often go separate political ways, but it is always a treat to know that areas of commonality, appreciation for points brought up - still exist in an America many seek to divide further.

2. While many have dismissed the "steroid flap" as inconsequential, I think in a macro sense it is central. Steroids and more accurately, PEDs, as Emily said, are just manifestations of a greater societal problem that is as important as Iraq, loss of American clout in global industry, the financial glacier of entitlements bearing down on the rocks of American society and threatening to pulverize them into sand...

Far too many American institutions have fallen prey to advancing agendas or getting wealth by rubrics of lies, distortions, and manipulations of an American public that knows better, for the most part, but dismisses favorable deceit as "agenda advancing" or on the other side, dismisses it as "all our enemies lie" cynicism.

In a world where manipulators hired by the ruling elites claim that "lawyers have an obligation to obfuscate the truth to save clients from the law", and others say billionaires have a right to hire 200K a year minions to craft law and hire lobbyists to deceive....And the lawyers and politicians themselves say they have a "right" to BS to advance themselves or clients..

We should see the young athlete or student as reflective of a slowly spreading culture of corruption that sees lies, cheating as SOP done by higher-ups and thus OK on a lower level to get a grasp on the rungs of the advancement ladder.

If lawyers are most admired when someone says only the "best and greatest lawyer"
could erect the BS to get a jury to acquit a client found hovering over a dead, raped child while gripping the bloody knife that killed her - then young athletes better understand their "game" that must be played for fame and fortune. Rules and law are just words to be artfully twisted to succeed and be rewarded. Same with 3 Star generals who know the price of 4 Stars is to lie about needing more troops. CEOs and hundreds of enabling henchmen "in" on the "inner corporate circles" know the "game" on how to cheat on financials for the Benjamins.

And we wish to point the steroid-users or the 40% of students that say it is OK to cheat as long as you don't get caught - to emulate better role models???

Now, who would that be?

A. The politicians in the Executive or aspiring to the Executive who say in your face "I did not have sex with than woman"; "The memory of the Christmas trip to Cambodia is seared in my memory", "Tax cuts are not just for the wealthy. It trickles down and rewards all of us. And besides, we have to give back the huge surplus of the 90s - it's THEIR MONEY!!"
???

B. The legislator-politicians and their K-Street counterparts, who show that misleading and obfuscating lead to riches on either side of the revolving door???

C. The lawyers who say they have a duty from their schooling, internships, employer guidance and peer examples to lie, deceive, and subvert justice for their clients and their hefty renumeration??

D. The MSM Press? Which has an agenda on dozens of issues they fit the news and facts to????

E. Corporate ethics? Cayman Bank accounts for the wealthy seeking to legally avoid taxes "lesser and inferior" Americans pay??

***********************

In the face of that, 17-year old Del-Ron Mustafa listens to all sorts of advisors teaching him to "be all that he can be" and jams a needle in his ass that might get him up to the level that gets him the athletic college scholarship, "booster" goodies, agents saying Mammy will never have to trudge down to the welfare people again, and pro sports Bling sponsorship may await.

***********************

So, is Del-Ron full of steroids worse than a lawyer getting a killer off, a CEO that just navigated his firm into the La Brea Tar Pits of ruination while milking 20 million by shilling his Board and the public? A reporter or editor out to manipulate readers to advance a personal agenda? Lying Flag-ranked military officers? Politicians wallowing in Arab, AIPAC, Big Pharma co-opting dollars or who lie like Kerry, Tom Harkin, and perhaps Bush about Vietnam?

*******************

For all the insistance that young athletes have "obligations" to avoid cheating, forgoe fame and millions so as to preserve their "role model status" and maintain "purity of sport"......why is the onus on the Del-Rons?? Why isn't the onus on THEIR older, accomplished role models who are under no obligation to maintain the "purity" of the legal profession, corporate inner circles of leadership, journalists spinning half-truths, politicians who carefully consider who can best pay to sell out the voters???

Or the 40 billion-dollar pool of sharks preying on America's sport industry - enriching themselves off not only pro sports but March Madness, college football, Olympics, even lucrative HS athletes while insisting "Winning isn't everything...It's the only thing"..

Posted by: Chris Ford | March 14, 2006 07:57 PM

Posted by: Chris Ford

"In the face of that, 17-year old Del-Ron Mustafa listens to all sorts of advisors teaching him to "be all that he can be" and jams a needle in his ass that might get him up to the level that gets him the athletic college scholarship, "booster" goodies, agents saying Mammy will never have to trudge down to the welfare people again, and pro sports Bling sponsorship may await."

Please use mother instead of mammy.

"So, is Del-Ron full of steroids worse than a lawyer getting a killer off, a CEO that just navigated his firm into the La Brea Tar Pits of ruination while milking 20 million by shilling his Board and the public? A reporter or editor out to manipulate readers to advance a personal agenda? Lying Flag-ranked military officers? Politicians wallowing in Arab, AIPAC, Big Pharma co-opting dollars or who lie like Kerry, Tom Harkin, and perhaps Bush about Vietnam?"

None of them lied about Vietnam, Kerry and Harken served there, Bush didn't.

No matter what race, religion, political party, sex, job, income, country,...., people are people.

Posted by: Jamal | March 14, 2006 08:41 PM

Emily wrote:
"Taking on the Week's Big Issue: Performance-Enhancing Drugs"

Emily, I think the problem here is that PEP isn't the week's big issue. It is actually still the civil war (Oops, sectarian violence) or arguably, killing Moussawi softly to satisfy the blood lust of the 9/11 victims.

Which is not to say we haven't had some good writing here by old favorites.

Posted by: Cayambe | March 14, 2006 09:38 PM


I thought I would check Senator Bill Frist's site for his stance Performance - Enhancing Drugs. All I could find were attacks on Senator Russ Fiengold.

http://www.volpac.org/

Posted by: Jamal | March 14, 2006 11:04 PM

Jamal -

Don't like Mammy? I've heard it regular. Deal with it. Vernacular is what it is with or without your ambitions to be PC Police.

As for lies, my point is that one example making it difficult for young athletes to "not lie, cheat, and be role models" is politicians in national figure campaigns being caught in lies.

Harkin was nailed solid on his claim that he flew Combat in Vietnam. He only ferried a few planes from Japan to DaNang and never saw combat. Kerry's "Christmas in Cambodia" is a well-discredited tall tale. And Bush may or may not have lied about wanting to go to Vietnam under the F-102 "Palace Guard" program, but for effective purposes - the libeal media and the Lefties covered that with "lies! lies! lies!" pretty well.

So if Clinton, Noble Algore, Bush, Kerry, and Harkin are liars...and Sharpton was everytime he opened his mouth...as they vied for election or found themselves BS-ing??

How much does that affect an athlete thinking of lying or cheating in the matter of PEDs to get ahead?

Posted by: Chris Ford | March 15, 2006 02:38 AM

Posted by: Jimj Young | March 15, 2006 03:09 AM

"Chris Ford writes:

Far too many American institutions have fallen prey to advancing agendas or getting wealth by rubrics of lies, distortions, and manipulations of an American public that knows better, for the most part, but dismisses favorable deceit as "agenda advancing" or on the other side, dismisses it as "all our enemies lie" cynicism."

___________

I had a 28-year career in the money management division of a bank that evolved into a broker/dealer, lastly functioning as technology manager.

From the first day training on the sales/trading desk I was firmly instructed that "your word is your bond." Misspeak in a quote, and get taken for it, and you take the pain but do not renege on your word. You were allowed to lose money in the process of learning, but deviate one millimeter from the iron rule of backing up your word, and you were out the door with no second chance.

The most professionally disturbing thing in the duration of that career was watching the standard erode, particularly in the final eight or ten years. It really coincided with a new generation of young employees who had the ethic that if you want something bad enough, then it's OK to deceive. This was reinforced by imported executive management playing by corporate rules rather than managers brought up exclusively in the trade. It made me positively nauseous to observe lies getting rewards. My personal mental always was, God, this is the world my daughter is growing into.

Deception really linked to the deprofessionism of many functions: legal, medical, education, fiduciaries. The dumb opportunists/MBAs get in charge of a formerly professional function, and the traditional period of closely supervised professional apprenticeship is effectively abolished. People are increasingly put in specialized positions with narrow visions, and they have fewer defenses against cheating, lying, corner-cutting, and manipulation of the client to the operator's advantage.

Like other sectors of our culture, sports seem to have lost their professionalism, and drugs are simply a byproduct.

Posted by: On the plantation | March 15, 2006 07:03 AM

Now that Chris Ford brought out the "I did not have sex with that woman" line, let's complement it with the "Mission Accomplished" or the "We are fully prepared" one. But let me offer a defense of old Bubba, in the strict constructionist interpretation of the biblical meaning of sex, oral sex is not real sex. It's just foreplay or recreational sex. So in a way Bubba was telling the truth. Kind of like the fundamentalist's claim that homosexual activity is not sex, it's an abomination.

Speaking of sex and performance enhancement drugs, what about Viagra and the rest? I mean shouldn't the sex (porn) industry regulate them to preserve fairness too? I mean come on an erection that can last up to four hours? Not even a pro like myself can compete with that! And I'm speaking with lots of experience in that arena.

It's good we are having this discussion so Mr. Ford can show he's not a complete neocon bigot. I'm very grateful to Ms. Messner.

Posted by: Hef | March 15, 2006 08:09 AM

Hef-

"Speaking of sex and performance enhancement drugs, what about Viagra and the rest? I mean shouldn't the sex (porn) industry regulate them to preserve fairness too? I mean come on an erection that can last up to four hours? Not even a pro like myself can compete with that! And I'm speaking with lots of experience in that arena."

The difference between Viagra and Steroids is that Steroids are illegal (because of the effect they have on one's reproductive organs, which is precisely why Viagra is taken. How fascinating). Now, if it turns out that the Pornography Industry creates such an unhealthy environment of brutal competition that the actors feel compelled to do illicit drugs in order to compete for roles, then perhaps we should intervene.

Posted by: Will | March 15, 2006 10:45 AM

Posted by: Chris Ford,

"Don't like Mammy? I've heard it regular. Deal with it."

Well Chris if that's what you call your mother, more power to you. After living in the South since 1967, I've never heard anyone refer to their mother as "mammy", only heard it used in racist jokes. We called our grandparents mamma and papaw and our parents mom and dad, so "mammy" must be vernacular to your upbringing. I just wonder why you go to so much trouble to debate a point, then self-destruct by placing a few subtle racial terms into your comments. The use of those terms only perpetuates a stereotype of neocons being bigots, so as democrat, keep it up, you only hurt you cause.

"Vernacular is what it is with or without your ambitions to be PC Police."

Has nothing to do with PC Police, if I felt you were out of line I would have reported abuse. I've never reported abuse on you or anyone. I believe certain comments and terms should be addressed even if they may be out of scope of the topic.

"As for lies, my point is that one example making it difficult for young athletes to "not lie, cheat, and be role models" is politicians in national figure campaigns being caught in lies."

I agree you, not since Richard Nixon has there been so many lies from a president as from George W. Bush. And GWB has over two years remaining to surpass Nixon.

Emily, my apologies for leaving the scope of the topic.

Posted by: Jamal | March 15, 2006 11:05 AM

Off topic, but the irony was too great to resist:

Ford states:
"Thanks for the nice words on the last thread, DK, Mill_of_MN, and plantation! We more than often go separate political ways, but it is always a treat to know that areas of commonality, appreciation for points brought up - still exist in an America many seek to divide further."

Ford becomes a hypocrite:
"Don't like Mammy? I've heard it regular. Deal with it. Vernacular is what it is with or without your ambitions to be PC Police."

You use that specifically to degrade a group of people while trying to piss readers off. You do it in regards to the Left, Islam and the Arabic community. Which is fine, as many of us see through you. But its just hysterical to read you try to take a moral high ground with a snub at those that cause division in America when you are one of the biggest examples of that on the blog.

Posted by: Freedom | March 15, 2006 11:49 AM

Freedom - The days of PC are on the wane.

The only reason "mammy" is out is the newer phrases are "h***s" and "b****s" are "in"..

Many Lefties are in fact hate-America types that delight in the death of American soldiers and seek to cast the military as a reviled subsociety that must be barred from schools and universities functions because they are "evil", "baby-killers", "homophobes", "no better than the enemy". So don't whine when their worst exemplar's treason or sedition is called sedition or treason. Free speech is just a liberty, not an automatic endorsement that everything said at a "Down with America" rally is praiseworthy.

And in wartime, the enemy is called things they really don't like. Nazis would have much preferred to be called "valiant Germans" or "enlightened National Socialists". But we called them Nazis. Oh, boo-hoo! And the poor WWII Japs were called Japs or Nips by us, and far worse by the Chinese (something like mother-raping rabid dogs)...instead of Nipponese or People of the Island Nation of Peace, Poetry, and Flower Arrangement. Now we have the Islamoid, Islamofascist, or Islamist totalitarian enemy. An enemy that hates our civilization, rejects all rules of humane warfare, and frequently hides amongst us until ready to strike, as in the London tube bombings, 9/11, Chapel Hill, Madrid, or the French Jew kidnappings and torturing to death afterwards.

There is no "right" of an enemy to be called nice words.

Which leaves the Lefty "outrage" over enemy descriptors a little flat, given 3 reasons:

1. The Left doesn't see the Islamist threat as an enemy threat. Just a few misguided criminals....with the real concern that Islamoids not be treated as harshly in thoughts or expressions as the Japs, Nazis, and certainly not their beloved Soviet, Stalin, Trotsky, and Mao were..

2. The Left sees the enemy threat, but hates Western Civ more and considers the Islamoid enemy useful in bringing down the evil West.

3. The Left sees the enemy, but believes that the enemy can give the Left more power - and only speaks out when ID'ing the Muslim enemy damages "right-wingers" as in the Dubai port deal.

Posted by: Chris Ford | March 15, 2006 03:25 PM

Thank you Ford, for proving my point exactly.

I post about how funny it is that you praise people for praising your points in "an America many seek to divide further" while being very dividing and antogonist to anyone with a differing view point to yourself. You respond to my post by using derrogatory terms and discussing how its ok to use them; that this is war (Which is rather funny seeing as you justify derogatory statements against those that follow Islam because we are "at war" with them, when there are many people that follow Islam living in our country that seek peace. Are we at war with them too?).

It is funny that in trying to attack what I said, while laughing at you, you have only proven my point more. Thank you for brightening my day, Ford.

Posted by: Freedom | March 15, 2006 04:15 PM

Freedom:

where to draw the line ...

in the Tyson example, there were 2 lines - one, he physically (and criminally) assaulted another human being - so that means he should be barred from any work that involves assault (like boxing.)
In general, i'd try to draw a line where someone's crime hurts other people directly - by contrast Richard Prior toasted himself free-basing cocaine - he wouldn't be barred from working audiences (unless he fried them too in that fire)


the other line is that he doesn't get to work in front of an audience - barred from 'celebrity' status .... that'd be a tough call on a case like Prior, who grew up in a house of prostitution and made it part of his comedy shtick -

i don't think Martha Stewart ought to be on TV again - given her flagrant disregard for insider trading rules, but my wife thinks i'm full of it (she's quite right of course), and she watches - and enjoys MS's work.

I don't want to reward our sociopaths (Tyson) and exploiters (Martha Stewart) with more celebrity, more wealth. Bonds ... he was a poor piece of work already ... his use of steroids makes his sports performance suspect, the only reason to have the guy on a team, given his antisocial persona. He should retire, help OJ find OJ's wife-murderer on US golf courses everywhere. Out of the public eye.

Posted by: Mill_of_Mn | March 15, 2006 07:19 PM

We live in over medicated society that looks for placebos to faciliate comfort with stress. Is it any wonder that peformance enhancing drugs have been nurtured in our hyper competitive culture?

http://www.intrepidliberaljournal.blogspot.com

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal | March 15, 2006 09:36 PM

>> Many Lefties are in fact hate-America types that delight in the death of American soldiers and seek to cast the military as a reviled subsociety that must be barred from schools and universities functions because they are "evil", "baby-killers", "homophobes", "no better than the enemy".


Many righties are in fact globalist worshipping types that delight in the sacrifice of American soldiers to advance the interest of a new world order that benefits them and their friends in places like Dubai, Zurich, Beijing, etc. They seek to cast the military as a revered subsociety that must be held up in public places like schools and universities while failing to properly train and provide these same soldiers with the most basic protections for their safety. They almost never serve when their time comes but would readily use the latest Madison Ave techniques to deceive others' children to go die in their places in foreign places for dubious causes.


>> The Left doesn't see the Islamist threat as an enemy threat. Just a few misguided criminals....with the real concern that Islamoids not be treated as harshly in thoughts or expressions as the Japs, Nazis, and certainly not their beloved Soviet, Stalin, Trotsky, and Mao were..


The Right does see the Islamist threat as an enemy threat. Except when there are a few bucks to be made then the very same Islamists become trusty friends who can be trusted to run our very own ports.


>>The Left sees the enemy threat, but hates Western Civ more and considers the Islamoid enemy useful in bringing down the evil West.

The Left does see the enemy threat but hates domestic enemy more who undermines our system of checks and balances with illegal wiretaps, massive expansion of govt spending and executive power to benefit and or hide the dismal records of the powerful few who daily demonstrate their disdain for the constitution and their inability to deal with problems both at home and abroad.

Posted by: Dis Ford | March 16, 2006 12:08 PM

I trully believe that persons who use the perfomance enhancing drus should be banned or been put in prison.

Posted by: Aaron Griffin | March 16, 2006 09:06 PM

Emily wrote:
===========================================
"Valium, for instance, could reasonably be prescribed to help a nervous athlete get some sleep. But about 25 years ago, it was found that some pentathletes used the drug to calm their nerves before the shooting portion of their competition."
===========================================

Women are better shooters (and I can personally atest to it, as I beat every male in my MC unit on the rifle range) -- women have shallower breathing, and have to squeeze the trigger (tight springs make it incredibly hard to pump for women). They may not have the lung or muscle capacity as men, but they use oxygen and their muscles more efficiently -- ounce per ounce. Thus, they make better endurance athletes, naturally.

That said, another known side effect of Valium is weight gain (well known in vet medicine). Added with steroids it can "beef" up an athlete -- but -- the side effects on performance is dismal. The edge is taken off. And organ damage can ensue (Valium is liver toxic).

SandyK
Who studies Experimental Medicine

Posted by: SandyK | March 16, 2006 10:42 PM

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




 
 

© 2006 The Washington Post Company