Is your teen on steroids?
Some high schools may encourage the use of “juice” in sports.
Ask some school representatives about their school’s stance on steroid use, and you might hear vehement statements of condemnation, followed by a great deal of foot-tapping, hand-wringing and comments such as, ‘Well, you know, it’s not that simple,’ and ‘We’re in a tricky position, because many parents expect us to allow and recommend steroids.’

Anabolic (muscle-building) steroids are a synthetic derivative of the male hormone testosterone. They do have legitimate medical uses, but they were never intended for illegal prescription to children or adolescents in order to build impressive muscles. There are many kinds of anabolic steroids, each with its own name, but collectively they tend to be referred to as steroids, “roids” or “juice”.

Steroids are taken orally, as pills, or by injection, using hypodermic needles. Some teens use relatively low doses, while others use more than one kind of steroid and cyclically in-crease the dosage to high levels. Steroids are more popular with boys, but some girls use them too.

In some environments, usage is extremely low or almost unheard of, while in others it seems as if most of those involved in competitive sport are using steroids.

Why would teens do steroids?

The reasons given by teens who use steroids include:
  • Wanting to be in the team, making “first team”, or wanting to win an event.
  • Being inspired by their sporting heroes, who admit to using steroids.
  • Wanting to have an impressive masculine physique, in order to appeal to girls (or anyone else they’re trying to impress).
  • Adopting the “it won’t happen to me” approach if they hear about the risks, because they’ve heard about “amazing results” linked to steroids.
  • Pressure from sports coaches and parents who want young athletes to excel, and who downplay the risks of steroids.
  • Exalting those who are prepared to risk everything to win. These messages are absorbed by the aspirant teens and affect their decision-making.
  • Peer pressure from teammates, which is hard to resist, especially if a key match or event is involved, and if most of the team members are using steroids.

Some of the risks

Some of the reported risks linked to steroid use include acne; hair loss and balding (girls too); stunted height; hostility and aggression; breast growth in boys; beard or excessive body hair growth in girls; prostate, liver and kidney cancers; heart disease; weakening of the immune system; depression; eating disorders; stroke; and HIV and hepatitis B and C (from shared needles).

No matter how great the potential enhancement of physical performance, are any of these risks worth gambling with, no matter how small we might think them  – and especially when the life and well-being we’re gambling with is that of our very own and beloved child?

And yet, in spite of the results of extensive scientific research, and medical proof of the risks involved in adolescents’ use of steroids, parents and coaches and other parties continue to engage in foot-tapping, mumbling justifications – and they continue to sanction the ongoing use of steroids by teenagers.

Tim Noakes says

Professor Tim Noakes, renowned Exercise Science and Sports Medicine expert and professor at the University of Cape Town, comments as follows: “The problem is really very complex. The point I continually make is that anabolic steroids do have an important influence and, in my view, it is not possible to be competitive at international level in certain sports unless one is taking anabolic steroids. Rugby happens to be one of those sports in which anabolic steroids certainly make a big difference, although, fortunately, it looks like there is some degree of control at international level. In contrast, in weightlifting and sprinting there is very little control, and almost all the winners are using anabolic steroids.

“We cannot condone steroid use. In addition, rugby players who use steroids early in their career will probably never make it at international level, because it seems probable that they will have to stop taking drugs at some stage or else they will be detected. Having worked closely with the 2007 Springboks, my impression was that steroids do not explain the unusual strength of most of the players. In other words, the very best Springbok rugby players are able to be internationally competitive without using anabolic steroids.

“Telling youngsters that they shouldn’t be doing steroids for some philosophical reason isn’t really going to make much difference if they want to make the first rugby team and be important. I think we have to be realistic about what education can do. The only way to stop anabolic steroid use is to cut the source and to expose the mafia behind the distribution of the drugs.”

  This is an extract from Life Talk for Parents (Oshun), available from at R118.96

How do you feel about steroids? Do you think some parents drive their children to use them by having a win or die attitude?

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