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The Steroid Predicament
Terry Todd
August 01, 1983
In spite of evidence that anabolic steroids can undermine one's health, the use of these drugs is widespread among athletes, who will risk their physical well-being for the promise of stronger performance
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August 01, 1983

The Steroid Predicament

In spite of evidence that anabolic steroids can undermine one's health, the use of these drugs is widespread among athletes, who will risk their physical well-being for the promise of stronger performance

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One of the ways the old no-free-lunch lesson was learned by athletes who began to use testosterone was that as a group they began to suffer a great many more muscle and tendon injuries. Before its widespread use such injuries were rare among strength athletes, whereas now they are alarmingly frequent. Among lifters the two areas that tend to rupture are the biceps tendon and the quadriceps, the muscle on the front of the thigh. Since the widespread use of testosterone began, scores of men have either had the unpleasant experience of watching their biceps muscle roll up their arm like a windowshade after the tendon, at the point of its insertion into the bone of the forearm, gave way, or of collapsing to the platform after one or both of their quadriceps or patellar tendons ruptured. But although the increase in these injuries is not a matter of dispute, the reason, or reasons, for that increase aren't completely understood.

Some weight men argue that the injuries can all be attributed to the heavier poundages being lifted now. Others contend that because of the increased testosterone level something biochemical must happen to the muscle or tendon that makes it more brittle and likely to tear. Still others, and I lean toward their view, suggest that it can be explained by the aggressiveness produced by the testosterone, aggressiveness that causes the lifters to train hard when they should take it easy. This argument holds that the body normally tells an athlete when to back off, but the testosterone imperative to train hard and dominate the weights overrides these messages, with the result being injury.

Nor have the difficulties apparently stemming from the use of testosterone been only physical. The following matched pair of interviews were done at separate times, and the second interviewee hadn't seen the other's remarks. The subjects were at one time husband and wife. The man is nearing the end of a long career in football.

Wife: He's so impatient when he's on the steroids, so easily annoyed. He becomes vocal and hostile real fast, and he was never that way before.

Husband: It definitely makes a person mean and aggressive. And I was always so easygoing. On the field I've tried to hurt people in ways I never did before, especially if someone cheap-shots me. When they do I go for a death blow.

Wife: His sexual habits really changed. On the testosterone he not only wanted to have sex more often, he also was much rougher. And his sleep patterns were completely different on the testosterone. The Dianabol changed him some, but on the testosterone he was always ready to start the day by five-thirty or six, no matter how late he'd turned in. In the old days he'd sleep till noon.

Husband: One of the bad things about the testosterone is that you never get much sleep. It just drives you so. With amphetamines the effect wears off after a game, but with testosterone it's almost as if you're on speed all the time.

Wife: I don't think he'll ever be able to give it up. It cost him a wife who loved him and the chance to watch his two children grow up. There've been times' when I felt he was almost suicidal. Sometimes, late at night, he'd tell me that he just couldn't help himself and that he couldn't stop using it because of the football, and then he'd cry.

Husband: I doubt if the NFL will ever try to stop it. The rule against it is just ignored now. But I've always told the doctors I was on testosterone, and nobody paid any attention.

Wife: The physical changes have been phenomenal. His skin has aged so fast, especially in the faceā€”it's so much coarser now. And he lost his hair on top, right .when he went on the steroids real heavy. But where in the past he didn't have much hair on his body, now his chest and back are covered, and the color of his genitals got darker. It was incredible.

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