Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals steps to the plate as the Major League season of 1998 is winding down. McGwire, who has been chasing the single-season home run record, has sixty home runs. One more will tie him with Roger Maris, the all-time single-season home run record holder. McGwire awaits the pitch from the opposing pitcher. It’s a little outside, ball one. He steps out of the batter’s box to regain composure. He wipes the sweat from his brow and steps in for pitch number two. This pitch is a called strike, a fastball up in the strike zone. McGwire squares up and takes a few swings to stay loose. The third pitch comes, Crack! It’s a laser down the left-field line. Will this be it? Time seems to stop as the crowd of 40,000 plus is on their feet, camera flashes going off in hopes of recording this moment forever.
The ball is going, going, gone. He has done it. McGwire now is tied with Maris for the single-season home run record of sixty-one in a season. This moment will forever go down in the books as one of the most eventful days in baseball history; however, it is plagued with much controversy as McGwire has admitted to taking a substance called androstenedione. Although this is a purely legal substance in Major League Baseball many think it performs just as a steroid and should be banned from professional sports altogether. Andro has already been banned from the NFL, NCAA, and the Olympics (Reilly). The performance-enhancing supplement androstenedione should be banned from professional baseball because the health risks are too great, some studies show that it doesn’t work as warranted, and it sets a bad example for youth.
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In opposition to this argument, some people feel that this substance should not be banned from professional baseball because it’s a natural, dietary substance. It is legal and sold over the counter to whoever wants it; therefore, it can’t be very harmful to one’s health. Since andro is natural the FDA does not regulate it, so many dangerous side effects are not yet known (Hayden). “…androstenedione, a “precursor” molecule that is just one metabolic step away from testosterone…” (Hayden). There are many known effects of having too much testosterone in one’s body. Studies show that too much testosterone can stunt growth, slow puberty, cause liver disease, heart problems, baldness, and develop breasts in men (Reilly). These side effects are too risky of a price to pay in order to hit one more home run or lift that extra weight.
Opponents also say that since no long-term studies of this substance have been performed it is still safe to use. This statement is false because many athletes in the 1970s and 1980s used anabolic steroids before much was known about them. Now it is known that these steroids cause masculinity in women, heart problems, liver problems, and reduction in the size of the male sex organs.
Andro should be banned in professional baseball because the health hazards are too risky and not enough long-term studies have been made on it. Andro is a legal form of testosterone, which if taken too much has been proven to cause very serious side effects. The human body has many ways of making sure it doesn’t produce too much of any chemical or other compounds. If the testosterone levels in the body stay too high for a long period of time, a chemical imbalance in the brain is tripped which signals the testes to stop making the hormone. This causes the testes to shrink and makes it difficult for the user to produce their own testosterone.
Also, excess testosterone can speed up the growth of prostate tumours that would have taken many years to form naturally (Madness). These health problems not only occur in the testes but also in other parts of the body. An “…excess of testosterone may eventually stunt growth, slow puberty, lead to sterility and cause liver disease, heart problems, acne, fits of rage, baldness and the development of breasts in men” (Reilly). These are enough reasons alone not to take andro but that’s only half of it. An excess of testosterone also has a negative effect on women. It can cause “…clitoral hypertrophy, decreased breast tissue, deepened voice, hirsutism, kidney and liver dysfunction, and menstrual irregularities” (Lee). The negatives to taking andro clearly outweigh the positives and this is why it should be banned in professional baseball.
Not only does andro have many negative side effects, but it is also doubtful if it works as prescribed. When andro is taken it is unknown if it is even fully absorbed by the body. After ingestion it “…has to get past the stomach and intestines, which break down a lot of androstenedione, rendering it ineffective” (Madness). The few studies that have been performed on andro also agree that it is ineffective. “In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial of 20 men…researchers from Iowa State University found that taking andro did nothing for testosterone levels. Instead, it boosted the amount of estrogen-like compounds in the blood and decreased levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, by 12%” (Candy).
Not only does andro not live up to its name in boosting testosterone, but it also decreases good compounds in your body like HDL. This study was not the only study that came to this conclusion. In a separate study, twenty healthy males aged 19-29 underwent eight weeks of body-resistance training. During this time the subjects were given different amounts of andro in order to boost performance. “The results of the study were puzzling. The drug’s purported role as a testosterone precursor was well established. However, serum-free and total testosterone levels were not altered by short-or long-term androstenedione supplementation” (Lee). These separate studies show that andro is ineffective in producing greater levels of testosterone, which render it useless.
The final argument one might have on the need to ban andro from professional baseball might be the most important. When an adolescent or high school player sees a big name player like Mark McGwire taking the supplement andro, it makes them want to take it. By taking this supplement and hitting seventy home runs in a season, McGwire has turned into an icon that every little leaguer or high school star idolizes. As much as five per cent of the youth today have taken andro or another form of over-the-counter testosterone. If the effects of high testosterone levels are bad for a grown man, the effects on a young body going through puberty can be devastative. “If your sons or daughters take androstenedione and it boosts their testosterone levels, they could regret it for the rest of their lives.
Artificially high levels of testosterone have been shown to permanently damage the heart, trigger liver failure and stunt a teenager’s growth” (Madness). Each of these risks is too much to sacrifice for one game. Any time ten times the normal amount of a substance are put into the body, the results can’t be good. “Just the normal amount of testosterone has gotten more teenage boys into trouble than fake I.D.’s. Imagine if a pill is taken to increase their testosterone level on top of that” (Reilly). Andro should be banned from professional baseball because the youth are idolizing today’s baseball stars and will stop at nothing to be like their favourite home run slugger.
The dietary supplement, androstenedione should be banned from professional baseball because the health risks are too great, it’s not even proven if it works as prescribed, and the players taking the drug set a bad example for the youth. An excess of testosterone can cause such effects as heart disease, decreased production of natural testosterone, heart disease as well as many other negative side effects. Not only does andro produce negative side effects, but it is also not even proven to work as directed. Many tests show that the andro is broken down in the digestive system and never is able to produce testosterone. Finally, the use of andro by Major League Baseball players has sparked an increase in adolescent and high school baseball players. The effects of an abundance of testosterone in a changing body as that of an adolescent can be purely devastative. Sports need to get back to the basics in order to achieve success; hard work, heart, and determination are all that is needed to win.
Gorman, Christine. “Muscle Candy.” Time 14June 1999:246.
Gorman, Christine. “Muscle Madness.” Time 7Sept. 1998:87.
Hayden, Thomas. “McGwire’s Power Supply.” Newsweek 7Sept. 1998:61.
Lee, Christopher. “Andro” or “No go”: Evaluating the Risks of Androstenedione in
Boosting Athletic Performance. 3May 2001
Reilly, Rick. “Hey, Mac, Do What Comes Naturally.” Sports Illustrated 1March 1999:90.
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