Roid Rage

Different Perspectives on an Overlooked Issue With Potentially Grim Consequences

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Roid Rage

The temptation for student athletes to take illegal performance enhancing drugs is still around, even with proven severe side effects.

The temptation for student athletes to take illegal performance enhancing drugs is still around, even with proven severe side effects.

Abi Cantu

The temptation for student athletes to take illegal performance enhancing drugs is still around, even with proven severe side effects.

Abi Cantu

Abi Cantu

The temptation for student athletes to take illegal performance enhancing drugs is still around, even with proven severe side effects.

Brendan Ulmer

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For any given high school sport, practices are daily and are expected to go two or more hours after school. This might seem like enough of an opportunity to improve strength and performance, but there are high school athletes who find that just practicing isn’t enough and go about strengthening themselves using more questionable methods. 

“Some of them [at my old school] were doing different types of testosterone,” said a new student-athlete who recently came from another school and shall remain nameless.“A lot of them were using horse testosterone, which is legal to take.”  

The lines between legal, over the counter supplements, and illegal steroids are often blurred and may cause confusion to an average high school athlete. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 5% of high school athletes have admitted to taking some sort of performance booster to increase their athletic ability. However, according to our athletic trainer Dennis Dolan, those statistics are likely skewed.

“I don’t have athletes coming up to me saying ‘ahh man I got this testosterone from my friend, what should I do?’” Dolan said. “Have I had athletes who have been on HGH (Human Growth Hormone)? Yeah, but it was all medically mandated by their doctor earlier in life.”

People who use testosterone and hormone boosters oftentimes have reasons to do it beyond just their life on a field or court. According to Dolan, the reasons are frequently medical.

“There are reasons for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and that usually comes with massive amounts of blood tests over months at a time,” Dolan said. “Kids that are low on the growth chart, may have the need for Hormone Replacement Therapy, that is a personal decision between the athlete, the parents, the doctor, the endocrinologist. All of that’s a very long and lengthy process that has to be mandated by their doctor.”

Despite the hormone therapy existing for medical purposes, there are still some who have tried similar therapies to forge a competitive edge. Including the football team’s defensive coordinator Kraig Goerl, when he was a college athlete.

“At the time it was a legal drug that you could buy at any GNC,” Goerl said. “It was called 1-AD. It’s now illegal. I took it because I knew it could get me stronger. I had just started college football and it was sold over the counter so I didn’t think it was wrong. I was raised the right way and knew if it was illegal I wouldn’t do it, but at the time it was legal.”

The supplement Coach Goerl was taking is known in the scientific community as Androgen Prohormone, which was indeed made illegal in 2004 through a Joe Biden sponsored bill titled The Anabolic Steroid Control Act. This bill ruled that certain over- the-counter testosterone supplements like the one Goerl was using, and the performance enhancing drugs that had been already been outlawed, are similarly dangerous. These were dangers that Coach Goerl believes he experienced firsthand.

“I wish I wouldn’t have [taken the supplements], because, and I don’t know for certain, but I blame it for my knee getting blown out in college,” Goerl said. “Your muscles do get stronger and they get a lot larger, but your tendons and ligaments don’t strengthen at the same rate so you’re more likely to get injured in that process and that’s what I think happened to my knee.””

— Kraig Goerl

“I wish I wouldn’t have [taken the supplements], because, and I don’t know for certain, but I blame it for my knee getting blown out in college,” Goerl said. “Your muscles do get stronger and they get a lot larger, but your tendons and ligaments don’t strengthen at the same rate so you’re more likely to get injured in that process and that’s what I think happened to my knee.”

Ligament vulnerability is among a laundry list of negative side effects that hormone supplements entail, so why would someone want to take these supplements at all?

“If you don’t need hormone replacement therapy, but you take it anyways, what you are doing is increasing the amount of testosterone in your blood,” Dolan said. “What that does is a systematic androgenic effect where you are now able to not just repair, but rebuild faster. What this allows you to do is build muscle faster.”

Before athletes get all excited and buy a bottle of Nugenix from former MLB All Star Frank Thomas, they may want to know that they’re opening the door to health problems that aren’t worth the risk.

“There’s going to be negative effects while on it as well,” Dolan said. “You’re exogenously taking these hormones, so your own bodies production will shut down. Your body’s not dumb. It realizes, ‘oh wait, I’m getting this from another source, I don’t need to do this’, so you shut down your natural testosterone, so therefore your testicles shrink. 

Dolan added that the consequences aren’t limited to reproductive challenges, they also effect your mental health.

“There’s mental, cognitive and emotional aspects that come with hormone regulation, you may become overly aggressive, `Roid Rage, things like that,” Dolan said.

Even with such severe side effects, the temptation of artificial advantages often becomes too attractive for some athletes to ignore, especially when the process of purchasing it is often as simple as a few clicks of a mouse.

“I never did horse testosterone,” the anonymous student athlete said. “I did legal testosterone. I bought it online. If you’re buying it the legal way, I think it should be fine. I think it’s more common than people think. It’s pretty widely available nowadays.”