With International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) public disclosures of athletes banned after taking prohibited substances becoming, what seems to be, a weekly thing. We’re covering in this issue the harmful effects of taking steroids (unless prescribed by a medical professional of course!).
Steroids are widely used in the world of Weightlifting. Many professional athletes want to win at any cost. Add in high-stakes events such as the Olympics, and many athletes will consider using steroids in order to have the best competitive advantage in order to pursue their dream. Making the use of steroids more and more common.
The steroids generally used in Weightlifting are anabolic steroids, which are different from corticosteroids, which help reduce an immune response that is over-active and help decrease swelling. Anabolic steroids, on the other hand, help build up muscle. These are artificial versions of the male hormone, testosterone, which is naturally produced by both males and females. Using steroids and causing an imbalance in the natural levels of testosterone can have severe physical repercussions.
Some side effects are experienced by all users. These include minor effects such as increased acne, excessively oily scalp and skin, jaundice, and baldness. They may lose their appetite or have trouble sleeping.
Steroid use may also lead to ruptures of tendons, and more serious effects such as an enlarged heart, a higher risk of getting liver cancer or other liver disease, and heart attacks. People taking anabolic steroids may also be prone to mood swings and experience rages or suffer from delusions. The mood swings and rages may lead to an increase in overall aggression and sexual need, which often leads to abnormal sexual behaviour and criminal behaviour due to “Roid Rage”.
Steroids are often injected, so users may risk becoming infected with HIV or hepatitis resulting from a needle or syringe that is not sterile.As with many other drugs, many steroid users become addicted to the drug and may have to go through treatment for withdrawal. This treatment needs to be done in a medical facility in order to decrease the side effects they will experience during the withdrawal process. In many cases, people who withdraw from anabolic steroids may become depressed and even commit suicide.
Men who take steroids may develop breasts, have shrunken testicles and lower sperm count, have painful erections, and even become impotent and infertile.
Women may begin to exhibit more male characteristics such as excessive facial and body hair and deepening voices. They may experience irregularities in their menstrual cycle, have an enlarged clitoris and reduced breast size.
Anabolic steroids can be particularly harmful to teenagers, who may experience permanent or long term effects. They may have arrested bone growth, which means they will not reach their normal height; girls may experience long-term masculinisation.
Please Note: Anabolic steroids are often used to treat medical conditions: they are prescribed to treat conditions such as delayed puberty or other conditions that make the body produce less testosterone than normal. They can assist boys with genetic disorders to have a more “normal” growth. However, without a valid health condition needing treatment and a doctor’s prescription, it is illegal to buy, sell, or distribute them.
Despite the possible consequences, use of anabolic steroids is still prevalent in Weightlifting. A test was created that made it possible to put steroids on a list of prohibited substances in 1974. This led to the disqualification of many athletes and a drop in the top records in many sports, including Weightlifting.
Since then, testing for illegal substances, including anabolic steroids, has been carried out extensively at all major competitions, particularly the Olympics, to try to detect and eliminate competitors who are using an unfair advantage in the competition.
In the 2012 London Olympics, Hysen Pulaku, an Albanian weightlifter was the first athlete to be ejected from the competition when it was found he tested positive for an anabolic steroid.
More recently, in 2015 at the World Weightlifting Championships, the Russian champion Aleksei Lovchev was one of 17 competitors who were suspended for positive drug tests, most using some kind of anabolic steroid.
So in addition to the health risks, use of these substances is banned in Weightlifting organisations; being caught using them in a competition will result in being banned from the sport altogether (or for at least two years!).
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