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Steroids: What they are, what they do

MedicineLance ArmstrongBen JohnsonMarion Jones

 

WHAT THEY ARE: Also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids, they are drugs that mimic the effects of the body's naturally produced testosterone.

WHAT THEY DO: They build muscle (anabolic effects) and cause the development of masculine characteristics such as deepened voice and facial hair (androgenic effects).

WHAT THE HEALTH RISKS ARE: Back acne, breast enlargement, testicular atrophy, liver damage, heart problems and high blood pressure and cholesterol.

OVERVIEW: Anabolic steroids have been used for performance-enhancement by athletes at least since the 1960s. Rudimentary testing for performance-enhancing drugs began at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, and a few athletes flunked tests in the 1970s. In 1974, East Germany kicked off its secret state-sponsored doping program, which was exposed decades later. Abuse of steroids for sports performance did not enter the international consciousness until Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for steroid use at the 1988 Seoul Olympics after winning the 100-meter gold medal. Two years later, anabolic steroids were made illegal without a prescription in the United States, but the substances continued to be abused by athletes. Some of sport's most legendary figures, including Olympic gold medal track star Marion Jones and cycling legend Lance Armstrong, have admitted use.

— Amy Shipley

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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