When people think of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), images of Barry Bonds smashing home runs over the right-field wall, and Lance Armstrong dominating the Tour de France come to mind. Using performance enhancing drugs, otherwise known as doping, can be dated back as far as the Olympics in Ancient Greece, where contestants consumed herbal concoctions to win chariot races. However, it is not just professional athletes who turn to PEDs.
A 2016 study done by the American Academy of Pediatrics has shown that around 3 to 5 percent of all high-school-aged students reported using anabolic steroids or human growth hormone. The fact that many professional athletes use PEDs has created an unattainable performance standard for non-doping high school athletes. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, one in five adolescent males believe that taking PEDs is the only way to become a professional athlete.
Steroids are a commonly used medication that can treat conditions such as asthma, arthritis, and inflammation. However, steroids have recently become synonymous with doping because of their popularity as a PED. Steroids have many short and long term side effects that are especially harmful when taken in extremely high dosages.
Testing for steroids and other PEDs can be difficult and expensive, which is part of the reason why this problem has persisted in professional and collegiate sports. It has been argued that the drugs should just be allowed to give everyone a level playing field. However, it is unreasonable to say that for someone to be successful at a sport, they have to submit themselves to dangerous drugs with life-altering side effects, especially because use in professional sports can encourage use by high school athletes.
The percentage of high school students who have used steroids may be small, but it is not insignificant. Competition should be healthy, not determined by unsafe drugs. It is essential to have a culture in sports that does not support unfair advantages so that athletes and fans can enjoy the competition they love so much.