Ergogenic Aids Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are drugs that function similar to the male sex hormone testosterone. Upon binding with specific receptor sites, these drugs contribute greatly to male secondary sex characteristics. These drugs have been used frequently by a large number of competitive athletes, particularly those involved

HEMATOCRIT (%)

FIGURE 10.7 Blood viscosity related to blood hematocrit.

HEMATOCRIT (%)

FIGURE 10.7 Blood viscosity related to blood hematocrit.

in strength and power sports. Increases in muscular strength, total body mass, and lean body mass have been reported [Bhasin et al., 1996]. It has been argued, however, that at least some of the increase in total body mass resulting from anabolic steroid use results from an increase in water retention [Casner et al., 1971]. Evidence indicates that many of these drugs act by decreasing muscle protein degradation rather than by enhancing protein synthesis [Hickson et al., 1990]. Hence, these drugs might be more appropriately named "anticatabolic" steroids. There is also some indication that these drugs work by increasing aggressive behavior and thereby promote a greater quantity and quality of training.

The factors that are responsible for transporting oxygen from the heart to skeletal muscle are enhanced following anabolic steroid administration through increases in blood volume, red blood cells (RBC), and hemoglobin. This would appear to improve cardiovascular fitness by increasing oxygen transport capacity. However, most studies show that anabolic steroids do not significantly increase cardiovascular fitness [Johnson et al., 1975]. This may be due to the increased blood viscosity resulting from the hemocon-centration effects of increasing RBCs and hemoglobin. Increases in blood viscosity may reduce blood flow to and from the heart and cause the heart to work harder in order to maintain cardiac output (Fig. 10.7).

It is clear that the use of anabolic steroids produces adverse effects on the liver and reproductive and cardiovascular systems. Effects on the liver include peliosis hepatitis (blood-filled cysts), impaired excretory function (jaundice), and liver tumors [ACSM, 1984]. Cardiovascular effects include an increase in blood pressure, abnormal alterations in cardiac tissue, and abnormal lipoprotein-lipid profiles [Hurley et al., 1984b]. Males can experience a significant reduction in sperm production, testicular size, and testosterone and gonadotrophin production, and females often experience a deepening of voice, male pattern baldness, enlargement of the clitoris, a reduction in breast size, a disruption in their menstrual cycle, and an increase in facial hair. Most of these effects are irreversible even after the drugs are discontinued. There are also many psychological effects including an increase in aggressive behavior, an increase in anger and hostility, large deviations in mood, and sudden changes in libido.

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