Printer Friendly

The incredible bulk: Major League Baseball struggles to beat performance-enhancing drugs.

DID YOU KNDW?

* Commonly referred to as anabolic steroids, this group of hormones is officially called anabolic (tissue-building)--androgenic (producing male characteristics) steroids.

* Over 100 types of synthetic anabolic steroids exist. All are illegal, unless prescribed by a doctor to treat a medical problem. If a person were caught with the drugs and without a prescription, first-time offenders could be sentenced to up to one year in prison and be fined a minimum of $1,000.

CRITICAL THINKING:

* Should star athletes who are caught using performance-enhancing drugs be stripped of their titles and have their records erased from history books?

CROSS-CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS:

ART: Create a poster to educate your community about the dangers of using steroids.

RESOURCES

* To learn more about how steroids can harm the body, visit this site by the National Institute on Drug Abuse: www.steroidabuse.org/

* For basic information about steroids, visit: www.aap.org/family/steroids.htm

When investigators raided a California lab in September 2003, they uncovered the grand slam of sports' drug scams: The Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) supplied athletes in several sports with illegal performance-enhancing drugs, including muscle-bulking steroids.

Last December, news broke that many Major League Baseball (MLB) players were involved in the scam. Among them: Barry Bonds--the single-season home-run king. Bonds claims that he didn't know the BALCO substances contained steroids. But other players confessed to knowing. Fans felt cheated, and President George W. Bush called on MLB to clean up the sport.

Should these MLB stars head for the hall of shame?

SYNTHETIC STRENGTH

Your body produces over 50 major hormones, or chemical signals that regulate many cell functions. One hormone group, known as anabolic steroids, affect muscle growth and control male characteristics. The drugs stirring the MLB scandal are artificial anabolic steroids that imitate the male hormone testosterone.

This hormone is produced naturally by the bodies of males and, in much smaller amounts, by females. When testosterone travels through the bloodstream, it binds with receptors, or structures that receive and relay messages, on muscle cells. There, the hormone signals the cells to make more protein (chemicals made of strings of amino acids). More protein means an increase in muscle size and strength, explains Thomas Fahey, an exercise physiologist who studies the body's vital functions, at California State University.

Many athletes take synthetic anabolic steroids in the form of pills, injections, or creams in hopes of bulking up their muscle mass so that they can train harder and hit the ball farther. But these drugs give users far more than abnormally beefy muscles and an unfair advantage. (Note: These drugs are not the same as corticosteroids, commonly prescribed for treating asthma and inflammation. Corticosteroids do not cause the same side effects.)

GENDER BENDERS

Anabolic steroids can trigger body changes that are so scary, "it's not worth [the risk]," says Shalender Bhasin, an endocrinologist (scientist who studies how the body regulates through hormones) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Because the female body produces only small amounts of testosterone naturally, females who take anabolic steroids gain masculine features, including an increase in facial and body hair. Also, thickened vocal cords result in a permanently deepened voice.

Male steroid users, however, take on more feminizing effects. That's because steroid use causes a testosterone overload. The overload signals the male body to stop producing the hormone naturally. The male body also banishes some of the extra testosterone by turning it into the female hormone estrogen, leading to the development of breasts in some users.

Even worse, steroid users have reported heart attacks, strokes, and violent behavior called "roid rage." Scientists are still trying to learn how anabolic steroids may be linked to these problems. "There's still a great deal [about steroids] that we don't know," says Tom Storer, an exercise physiologist at UCLA. But what scientists do know is enough to call foul play. "[Anabolic steroid use] is banned by virtually every sporting organization," says Storer. "It is clearly illegal and unethical."

CATCHING CHEATERS

Sporting organizations nab cheaters by testing blood and urine samples for known illegal drags. BALCO threw the testing labs a curve ball by developing a new anabolic steroid called tetrahydrogestrinone (teh-truh-high-dro-jes-trih-nohn). The drug maker's clients were able to slip past detection until a coach sent the performance enhancer to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Once scientists at UCLA identified the steroid, sports authorities began testing for it. Since then, several world-class track and field athletes who flunked the test have been stripped of their titles. The NFL fined three players who tested positive. The MLB responded in January by passing a tougher steroid-testing program: Instead of testing players once a year, they will now conduct random, year-round testing, and seek tougher penalties for players who test positive.

The MLB blowup has many athletes questioning the meaning of being a good sport. Says baseball coach Brian Domenico of Olympic Heights High School in Florida: "Sports should be about class and integrity and character. You have to earn the right to be successful."

RELATED ARTICLE: Sidelined.

According to a recent survey by the University of Michigan, the rate of steroid use by high school students increased significantly during the 1990s, before dipping after 2003 (see graph, below).

Anabolic steroid use is especially harmful for teens, because the performance-enhancing drugs could shortchange them--literally. As a developing body grows taller, growth plates in the bones fuse together. Because anabolic steroids speed up growth, these plates fuse before they normally would. The result: The teen's growth will be stunted, meaning that he or she will grow to be shorter than if the body hadn't been exposed to the steroids. "Once the [growth plates] fuse, you can't grow anymore. So these effects are permanent," warns Shalender Bhasin.

CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING

DIRECTIONS: On a separate piece of paper, defend or dispute the following statements. (Hint: Defend means to explain why a statement is correct. Dispute means to explain why a statement is incorrect.)

1. The anabolic steroids involved in the Major League Baseball scandal mimic hormones responsible for controlling female characteristics.

2. Artificial anabolic steroids cause no side effects in either females or males.

3. Anabolic steroid use is especially harmful for teens.

ANSWERS

1. Dispute: Anabolic steroids, a hormone group, affect muscle growth and control male characteristics. The drugs stirring Major League Baseball are artificial anabolic steroids that imitate the male hormone testosterone.

2. Dispute: For females, side effects of steroid use include gaining male characteristics, including an increase of facial and body hair. Also, thickened vocal cords result in a permanently deepened voice. Male steroid users take on feminizing effects. That's because steroids cause a testosterone overload. The overload signals the male body to stop producing the hormone naturally. The body also banishes some of the extra testosterone by turning it into the female hormone estrogen, leading to the development of breasts in some users. All steroid users may be at risk for heart attacks, strokes, and violent behavior.

3. Defend: Anabolic steroid use is especially harmful for teens because the drug speeds up growth. That causes the growth plates in a developing body to fuse before they normally would. A teen will end up shorter than if he or she didn't use steroids.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Scholastic, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Life: steroids
Author:Adams, Jacqueline
Publication:Science World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 28, 2005
Words:1204
Previous Article:Ready, set, slurp! Scientists discover the secret to chameleons' catapulting tongues.
Next Article:Icky intestines.
Topics:


Related Articles
Pumped-up hysteria: forget the hype. Steroids aren't wrecking professional baseball.
The urine police.
'I yam what I yam ...' (... except for those performance-enhancing drugs.).
Who belongs on a Wheaties box?
Slugging it out on the Hill: time to strike out the steroid menace.
Numbers in the news.
Inflation ruins everything.
Should the records of ballplayers who used steroids count? As the baseball season winds down, the debate over steroid use continues to heat up.
Anabolic steroids at the 1972 Olympics!

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters