Should we Change our Perception of Drug use in Sports?

The article is a guest post from Dr. David J. Hanson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sociology of the State University of New York at Potsdam and Melissa Kluska, Online Public Relations Coordinator at Saint Jude Retreats, and does not necessarily represent the thoughts and opinions of

drug use in sports ryan braun

Is there a better way to change the pattern drug use in sports instead of suspensions? That’s the question Dr. David Hanson is wondering

Winning comes natural to some people, others must work diligently to transform themselves into an unstoppable super athlete unwilling to quit.

But what about when these powerhouse athletes begin to burn out and slow down? You know the ones I’m referring to, from A-Rod, David Ortiz to Barry Bonds these so called “cheaters” have all been accused of doping to improve their game.

However, can we really call an outstanding player a “cheater” because they took enhancing drugs to perform better?

Is it the player’s choice to use performance enhancing drugs safely in small doses, especially if they knew the side effects? Would this be like tweaking a diet to help peak top performance?

Athletes are some of the highest paid public figures in the world with salaries of up to $275 million dollars per contract. So why would anyone risk it all by making the decision to use performance enhancing drugs? Perhaps the very reason is the severe pressure professional athletes put on winning. However due to age, new talent or injury, or younger competition, many athletes are continuing to play well beyond their prime and sometimes turning to substance to do so.

Can we really blame professional athletes for taking a performance enhancing substance? Their career and livelihood’s are at stake. Athletes have been taught through years of training to constantly test solutions that will increase their speed, drive and endurance. Anyone who has played a competitive sport knows that the same techniques can’t always be used for long periods of time. Switching workouts, meals or strengthening exercises is the key to being a better athlete.

Just like an everyday person must sometimes switch up creative strategies to stay on top of their career.

Is this the reason that Alex Rodriguez, one of the highest paid baseball players in history has turned to doping? The 38-year old former MVP was banned for 211 games due to evidence of taking performance enhancing drugs, testosterone and human growth hormone. Allegedly, Rodriguez had been using the drugs for the past several years, as well as a slew of 19 other major league baseball players including Ryan Braun, another former MVP with the Milwaukee Brewers.

There are many different reasons why athletes use drugs. However, the most common is “to objectively or subjectively assist performance” which all works together to help the athlete become faster or stronger. Other reasons include trying to relieve stress or negative emotions or trying to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

drug use in sports dr david hanson

Dr. David Hanson, takes a strong position on drugs in sports

Athletes as Active Role Models

One of the main reasons that performance enhancement doping is prohibited in major league sports is the impact that athletes have as role models for behavior.

Many people believe that children will get the idea from their role models that drugs are the way to becoming the best athlete possible. In his article, Substance Use in Athletes, Eric Morse emphasizes that “our elite athletes are role models for our youth, thus creating prevention and intervention programs to reduce substance use in athletes may have a significant impact on substance use in general.”

Parents can combat the possible influence that sports icons can have on their children by avoiding being overly competitive with their child, or pressuring them to be the “best” athlete.

There is no true way to stop your children or teenagers from experimenting with drugs, but keeping communication open is one way to be preventive. This can be achieved even thoroughly nightly family dinners and conversations about peer pressure or from the stress of playing a competitive sport.

The Pressure on Players

Some argue that there is immense pressure on professional athletes to continue to perform, even into their early and mid 40’s when the onset of injuries, weakness and lack of stamina begin to take their toll. Some feel if players know the risk, it should be their own decision whether or not to take drugs.

There are others who advocate that it is more beneficial for performance enhancing drugs to be legal so that athletes can safely take a small dose and avoid mixing the wrong combination of drugs.

In the article “Faster, Higher, and Stronger: Why athletes should have the choice to use performance-enhancing drugs”, Robert J Bello explains, “these drugs help athletes perform better and athletes are using them, but the current ban prevents athletes from realizing those benefits and disconnects those users from the help, information, and supervision that they need. Performance-enhancing drugs are a part of modern athletics, and by making them legal these drugs can be harnessed for both safe and effective use.”

According to, “proponents of accepting performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sports argue that their harmful health effects have been overstated, that health risks are an athlete’s decision to make, that using drugs is part of the evolution of sports much like improved training techniques and new technologies, and that efforts to keep athletes from using PEDs are overzealous, unproductive, unfairly administered, and bound to fail.”

Regardless of the risks and consequences, in the long run it may be safer for athletes to take controlled small doses of performance enhancing drugs that are monitored by professionals or trainers. This could possibly prevent an overdose by educating the players what drugs can be mixed together and which ones are highly toxic it. Many athletes are taking these drugs but are not getting caught, and there will probably be more drug scandals in the future.

However, performance enhancing drugs may never be considered legal in sports for numerous reasons. In the meantime, hopefully the players who risk taking these drugs know the benefits versus the consequences to stay on top of their game.

The article is a guest post from Dr. David J. Hanson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sociology of the State University of New York at Potsdam and Melissa Kluska, Online Public Relations Coordinator at Saint Jude Retreats, and does not necessarily represent the thoughts and opinions of

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