Over the years, we’ve seen the development of more performance-based roles in sport, especially at the top flight. We have sports psychologists, exercise scientists, and a whole range of support staff aiming to propel their athlete to glory. Athletes have never been more physiologically advanced as they head into battle.
The gap between first and second place has never been smaller. Instead of improving one thing by 100%, athletes and their teams must now work to improve a hundred things by 1% to gain a competitive advantage. No wonder some athletes are tempted to consider steroid use.
One of the most famous cases of steroid abuse in sport is that of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who was one of the top competitors at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. He won gold in 1988 but tested positive for the compound Stanozolol (or Winstrol, as it is known on the streets) just three days later. Therefore, he was stripped of the gold medal and of the world championship title he won the previous year. Ben Johnson was a national hero, and the news was devastating to many Canadians who had supported him throughout his career. After he returned to the track, he was never the same and the rest of his short career was riddled with injuries and bad luck.
Drugs are common in many sports. Combat sport athletes have also turned to anabolic−androgenic steroids (AAS) in their pursuit of victory. There are many high-profile cases, but with the boom of MMA in full swing following the announcement of the McGregor vs Mayweather fight, it seems fitting to mention one of its other biggest names: Anderson Silva.
Silva, a UFC middleweight champion, had tested positive for Drostanolone. Throughout his hearing he maintained that he was innocent, suggesting to the athletic commission that he ingested it via a sexual performance-enhancer obtained from a friend, but they decided that there were too many inconsistencies in his story. He was suspended for a year, fined $380,000, and had to submit a clean sample before they would consider licensing him again. What had been a great career was now up in the air, and his credibility had vanished. Commissioner Anthony Marnell even suggested that, because this was the first time he had undergone enhanced testing, his previous drug tests were also unreliable.
The last athlete I want to discuss was once the golden boy of world cycling. Before I even continue this, you know exactly who I’m talking about. Lance Armstrong. He was in the spotlight for years and was destined to go down as the most successful cyclist ever. For years, many people had suspected him of using steroids, but, like most others, he maintained that he was an innocent man. It was only in 2013 on an Oprah Winfrey show that the cyclist admitted to using EPO and Human Growth Hormone (HGH). As you may expect, he was stripped of all of his Tour de France victories and an Olympic gold medal. Following this, he spent a considerable amount of time in court defending himself so that he didn’t have to pay back millions of dollars of prize money and fines.
All of the above athletes failed in their attempts to restore their fanbases. They lost it all, and likely developed a health consequence or two along the way. Worryingly, these guys also had enough talent and ability to achieve very good careers before steroids. You know what they say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
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