Why Major League Baseball players—now include Yankee Alex Rodriguez—juice, according to a physiologist who used drugs himself.
With the news this weekend that baseball great Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez had used anabolic winstrol for sale, the outrage over widespread doping in sports has only grown.
Rodriguez, a three-time MVP, now joins a long list of modern baseball greats tainted by drug charges, including homerun king Barry Bonds and pitching ace Roger Clemens. But, unlike those guys, Rodriguez confessed on ESPN Monday night, despite the fact that the latter denied steroid abuse under oath at a congressional hearing last year.
He expressed regret for taking performance-enhancing medications, calling himself “dumb.” Rodriguez claims to have kept clean while wearing the New York Yankees’ distinctive pinstriped uniform as the team’s All-Star third baseman for the past six seasons.
Rodriguez allegedly tested positive for testosterone and the anabolic steroid primobolan, according to Sports Illustrated’s unidentified sources. However, the big league veteran informed ESPN’s Peter Gammons that he had no idea what illegal substances he utilized with the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003.
In 2003, Rodriguez’s name appeared on a list of 104 major league players who had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs as part of a study to determine the necessity for mandated testing to reduce the usage of banned substances. The players’ names have not been made public, and none of them have been sanctioned. However, when 5% of players tested positive for illegal substances, the League instituted random drug testing and sanctions in 2004.
Rodriguez’s homerun average soared to a super-slugging 52 per season during his admitted drug stint, compared to 36 during his first four seasons in the league and approximately 42 since. His total games played and runs batted in (RBI) statistics both reached new highs. Despite this, his batting average has dropped over the course of his career, from.315 to.305 during his drug phase to.303 in the last five seasons.
The League named him MVP in 2003, reportedly his final year of using anabolic drugs. Rodriguez has continued to play baseball of the highest standard, winning two more Most Valuable Player honors in 2005 and 2007.
Prednisone, which is prescribed by doctors for inflammatory and other illnesses, is not the same as anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids, on the other hand, enhance tissue growth, particularly muscle gain, which is why they have become so popular in athletics.
ScientificAmerican.com spoke with Jay Hoffman, a professor of health and exercise science at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, to discover more about the enhancing effects of anabolic steroids as well as their possible health hazards. Hoffman, who holds a doctorate in exercise science, used anabolic drugs during his football career in the early 1980s and just met Rodriguez.
Do you think the revelation that Alex Rodriguez used steroids surprised you?
Not in the least. I had heard stories that he had utilized them from League coaches. What I don’t like is how Alex came across in the ESPN interview as if he didn’t know what he was doing. I’m sure he was well aware of what he was putting into his body. When I met him in 2006 at a workout at Yankees Stadium, I was blown away because he asked a lot of insightful questions about training. I respect his work ethic as well.
Rodriguez is accused of using the steroid primobolan. What exactly is that medication, and how does it work?
It’s a synthetic variant of the male sex hormone testosterone, and it’s an anabolic steroid, also known as an androgen. It improves muscular mass and strength while also speeding up recovery time following a workout. Primobolan is usually injected using a needle into the buttocks. Because the steroid is fat soluble, you want to dissipate it through some fatty tissue, which will also slow down its metabolism for a longer-lasting dose.
How can you tell whether you have primobolan in your system?
You can check the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in the body with a urine test, which should be one-to-one in a healthy male. The ratio will be biased in favor of testosterone if someone is taking exogenous (external) testosterone. You can also utilize chromatography, an advanced lab technique (including mixture separation) to detect primobolan’s chemical fingerprint.
Rodriguez is said to have tested positive for testosterone as well. What exactly does that imply?
The hormone is frequently utilized as a second injectable steroid that, when combined with primobolan, produces androgenic metabolic effects. When most athletes use anabolic steroids, they use what’s known as a “stacking dose,” in which they take many steroids to amp up the effects of each.
What are the short-term advantages of steroid use?
Even if you don’t lift weights or use steroids, you can gain muscle strength and size pretty quickly. However, the most significant advantage of anabolic steroids is that they allow an athlete to train harder and recover faster. An athlete can train on Monday, then return on Tuesday for a similar workout through the end of the week. Because they haven’t fully recovered from their previous workouts, most people’s workouts become less difficult as the week progresses.
Why didn’t Rodriguez’s hitting average rise during his steroids years?
There’s only a small amount of evidence that steroid use could help him improve his batting average. Batting average reflects performance abilities such as hand-eye coordination. However, research on frogs has revealed that anabolic steroids can increase androgen receptors on nerve terminals, suggesting that greater reactions are possible. Whether it’s a curveball or a fastball, hitting in baseball is all about reaction time.
The main advantage of anabolic steroids is that they can help you maintain consistency throughout the course of a baseball season. That’s why Rodriguez’s statistics between 2001 and 2003 are so much higher. Excellent power hitters’ numbers are going to be pretty good in April and May (early in the baseball season, which spans from April to September, excluding the playoffs). However, in August and September, these players are unable to maintain that level of performance. Take the New York Mets, for example: If the squad had been on anabolic steroids in 2000, they would have likely made the playoffs the past two years instead of running out of gas late in the season. When you have that little extra, it makes a great impact.
A person like A-Rod, on the other hand, works really hard at the gym. He is maximizing his potential by using steroids. Would he be a better player if he didn’t have them? Unquestionably. Would he be as dependable? The answer is most likely no.
What are the negative effects of steroid use?
It all depends on the concentration, the amount you’re taking, how long you’ve been taking them, and an individual’s reaction. Acne on the back is a typical side effect, and it’s one of the telltale symptoms that someone is using it. Additionally, you may have changes in your blood pressure and lipid (fat) profile, such as an increase in cholesterol. Because the body no longer produces its own testosterone, the testicles shrivel with time. There’s a potential the sperm count will drop as well. However, taking steroids is similar to going through a second puberty in terms of hair growth and aggressive behavior. Women who use steroids are more likely to develop hirsutism, an unnatural growth of body hair, and beards.
Steroids have the potential to increase physical size, but we haven’t seen this with Alex. If you look at Barry Bonds’ head size, you’ll notice that it’s due to human growth hormone, which isn’t a steroid and works through distinct systems in the body. Bonds’ hat size rise is known as acromegalia, and it is not reversible.
What is the duration of steroid side effects?
All of those negative effects are reversible within four weeks of stopping the steroids, albeit women who use steroids tend to remain masculinized. And any athlete who has explored juicing (steroid use) is aware of this. Athletes typically go on a steroid cycle for six to eight weeks, then come off for two months before returning to it. When they’re taken away, the adverse effects return to normal.
Bodybuilders and wrestlers, who are compensated based on their physical appearance, are among the athletes who suffer from serious health problems. Muscle dysmorphia, or reverse anorexia, is a condition that they can acquire. Bodybuilders and wrestlers look in the mirror and regard themselves as little, just like someone who constantly thinks themselves obese. Those are the athletes who will never stop cycling.
Are there any other side effects of using steroids?
Steroids could be fatal for someone who has a mental or cardiovascular condition. Anabolic steroids work in the same way as any other drug. If you have hypertension and your doctor recommends an ACE inhibitor, you should be aware that if you have kidney disease, there may be contraindications to taking that medicine. Anabolic steroids are the improper performance-enhancing drug to use if an athlete has a mental ailment like depression or bipolar disorder, which many steroid-using high school athletes who commit suicide are said to have. Steroids, on the other hand, are relatively safe when administered in a clinical environment.
In a clinical environment, how are steroids used?
Steroids are an extremely successful clinical tool for treating muscle-wasting diseases like cancer, AIDS, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease when used alone. Changes in testosterone and cortisol levels in athletes are studied by sports scientists all around the world. In the lack of carbs for energy, cortisol, a catabolic steroid generated by the adrenal glands above the kidneys, breaks down lean tissue. It’s also released when you’re stressed. Over the course of a baseball season, testosterone levels drop and cortisol levels rise as a result of high-intensity training. The athlete becomes hypogonadal, or testosterone-depleted, and weariness sets in. The condition is referred to as “overtraining syndrome.”
One treatment option is to use an exogenous (external) source to boost testosterone levels. We do this with guys over 50 who have a natural testosterone drop, but not with the super-pharmacological amounts used by many athletes. Team physicians are debating whether or not it should be acceptable to utilize exogenous testosterone to restore an athlete’s normal testosterone levels. However, because of the ongoing witch hunt, the issue is not being addressed right now. In the sports media, there is such a knee-jerk reaction to steroids, and these stories are sensationalized. There is such a misunderstanding about the effects of steroids. I believe we need to take a more scientific approach to this.
Since quitting juicing, Rodriguez has won two MVP awards. Can sportsmen maintain their muscle mass gains without using steroids?
Even eight weeks after taking the medications, the muscles begin to shrink, albeit there is still a considerable difference in size and strength. It all comes down to how much you’ve absorbed and how hard you’ve trained. But, three years later, will you be able to maintain your gains? No.
So the major question is whether Alex is enrolling in something else. His home run totals have dropped, but they’re still impressive. The benefit of the doubt for him, on the other hand, has now vanished. For example, his [profitable] deal might allow him to purchase an undetectable designer steroid. Most athletes in that community are a few years ahead of the drug testing laboratories, as many involved in [professional sports drug] testing recognize. Is Alex on the cutting edge these days? It’s conceivable.
What was your personal experience with steroid use?
In 1982, I began using anabolic steroids during my senior year of college at St. Johns (in Queens, N.Y.), a little football school that isn’t known for its basketball program. I wanted to play professional football and thought I needed to do something to compete with guys coming out of Division I colleges (the top collegiate athletic tier). It was critical for me to be as large as possible. It was a dream of mine. And I was lucky enough to be the first athlete from St. Johns to acquire a professional deal with the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). However, I did not make it out of training camp and was moved to the New Jersey Generals and subsequently the Tampa Bay Bandits (both part of the now-defunct United States Football League). After that, I joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1984.
From 1982 to 1984, I used steroids for three years. Steroids were not banned at the time. I had a prescription for them and purchased them like any other drug from a pharmacy. We’d discuss which room we’d inject in that night with the majority of the guys in the training camps. That seemed like it was one of those things you had to do to play in the NFL at the time.
As far as I know, team physicians were not involved, although they did keep an eye on our health. I had regular tests to ensure that my liver enzymes were in good working order, that my heart was in good shape, and that all of my blood lipids were normal. I performed things in a manner that may be described as proper. I wasn’t misusing steroids or getting two prescriptions from two different doctors to double up on dosages. I was doing it for a living.
Have you had any negative side effects as a result of your treatment?
I got the typical side effects – acne, hypertension – but nothing too severe that I couldn’t handle. I took a strong androgen during my last season, and it was the first time I saw substantial changes in my demeanor. And after the third training camp, I had decided that such improvements were not worth it for me, so I stopped utilizing. However, the encounter sparked a lifetime curiosity about why steroids work and whether there are any alternatives.
What are your thoughts on non-traditional strength-building supplements?
They didn’t have supplements like creatine (an organic acid that helps feed muscles with energy) and beta-alanine (an amino acid that helps control pH in muscles) or certain types of protein when I was playing. I’m sure I would have taken them instead of anabolic steroids if they existed. But I have no regrets about what I did because I did it carefully. I was well aware of what I was putting into my body. I knew why I was doing it, and I knew how much I was willing to pay for it. I’d do it all over again. I have three healthy, gorgeous children, therefore there are no long-term consequences. I didn’t get a third leg, become impotent, or any of the other nonsense you see on television. However, some athletes have concerns because they never stop using and have underlying health problems such as mental illness or heart problems. That is why education is so crucial.
What are your thoughts on the performance-enhancing drug topic in sports?
It’s important to remember that these professional athletes are on the verge of reaching their physiological limit. These people have a deep understanding of their body. They are aware that they require more. That is why it is critical to try to teach children what they can and cannot do. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball neglected this for many years and lacked the necessary personnel in the locker room to assist in providing such teaching. As a result, the athlete is left alone, and they go to the gym rat and receive incorrect instructions.