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Steroid abuse hurts everyone

EDITOR’S NOTE: This continues our 2012-13 Speak Out Loud installment. On most Saturdays throughout the school year, the Denton Record-Chronicle will publish photos, opinions, features, news stories and more from high school student journalists and yearbook staffers in and around Denton. Speak Out Loud allows high school students to share their news and views with the Denton community and beyond.

Ever get tired of waiting for snail mail? There’s e-mail for that. Done with pre-mapping your trip? There’s GPS for that. Sick of missing your favorite show? There’s the digital video recorder or DVR for that.

This is the 21st century. We have a solution for everything.

Want to have the edge in sports? Yes, we have a solution for that, too. It’s called steroids. These miracle drugs will make you the biggest, fastest and most superior of all athletes. Coming in a wide variety of forms from a little pill to a deer-antler spray, steroids will satisfy all your wants and desires. There’s just one problem: they are not exactly allowed.

Steroid abuse has been a rising problem in the United States for the last several years. Although it has always been an underlying issue, recently it seems the incredible prevalence of steroids is coming to light much more often. Heroes and role models have come forth and admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs to boost their athleticism — most namely, Lance Armstrong. Others have denied it, but have been accused multiple times.

Even in the younger generation, steroids are becoming a problem. Sports Weekly conducted a discussion in 2005 with high school athletes in Washington and discovered steroid abuse occurs openly in locker rooms; coaches are sometimes willing to turn a blind eye, and the pressure to win is enormous. Athletes are often willing to ignore the long-term steroid abuse effects in order to take advantage of the short-term benefits.

According to Fox News online, a more recent study in 2012 in Minnesota revealed that 5 percent of students from middle to high school ages admitted to steroid use. In addition, approximately one-third of boys and one-fifth of girls said they had used extensive amounts of protein powders and shakes to help build muscle mass. About 2,800 students were surveyed from 20 middle schools and high schools. Of course, the survey is subject to bias, and can only represent the number of students that actually admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. Without a doubt, there are more than only 5 percent using steroids. It’s a scary realization and should be a warning bell for the future.

Pressure is a huge factor in the spreading of steroid abuse. Young athletes who are found with the drugs often point to the need to be the best. Coaches and parents push their children to extreme limits; limits that are sometimes unattainable without a little extra help. The amount of pressure being put on these young people encourages them to cut corners and to find the easiest and quickest way to reach their goals.

This is not honest. First, it is simply cheating. The more athletes that are using steroids to boost their performances, the less chance that naturally gifted ones will shine. It calls into question every famous athlete’s true capabilities. People will point at any achievement and say, “Well, he must have been on some serious juice.” But can you blame them? In a world where even heroes are using backdoor methods, it is reasonable to assume that only cheaters are the ones who win.

Also, steroid use is not honest to the person. It lies about who they really are. Maybe they were never born to be a football star, or a basketball champ, but the availability of steroids creates a false reality where those dreams can become possibilities.

It is a dangerous game, and unfortunately for users, the truth tends to come out. Relying on steroids instead of personal strength is a surefire way to make a crutch for them. And this crutch will not be easily cast aside, because steroids have lifelong consequences.

The short-term benefits sound great: bigger muscles, stronger bones. What could be wrong with that? Actually, a lot is wrong with that. The Association Against Steroid Abuse has published multiple side effects that come from steroid use. Their list includes stunted growth, risk of HIV, psychological addiction, strokes, heart attacks, infertility and, of course, death.

However, steroids in and of themselves are not evil. Medicinally, they have multiple benefits. The difference is that these are used with supervision by a doctor. The dose makes the poison, as the 16th century German-Swiss physician Paracelsus said. Using steroids for recreation, rather than for medicine, opens up a whole new range of potential dangers.

We have a problem when steroid use, despite the medical risks and being morally wrong, is preferred over hard work. Expectations and pride play a huge role in the rise of steroids. They form this idea that you are not strong or good enough unless you are on top of the world. But it takes a great deal of strength to acknowledge that you are not the best athlete, and maybe you never will be.

When Lance Armstrong came forward and admitted to using steroids during his Tour de France victories, all of America was impacted. Everyone was disappointed, ashamed and horrified. We all want a role model. We all want someone to believe in and when our heroes fall, it destroys our trust. And the knowledge of steroid abuse only prolongs that distrust.

MADDIE BELL is a senior at Ryan High School and a participant in the Denton Record-Chronicle’s “Speak Out Loud” writing program for student journalists.