David learns
                                                    how steroids 
                                                    are produced 
                                                    naturally in 
                                                    the body.


Do athletes need to take synthetic steroids?


Anabolic steroids are male sex hormones, or androgens, that promote muscle growth. Your body produces them naturally, but they can also be produced synthetically in a laboratory. Both men and women produce these steroids. Men produce more steroids than women which tends to make men's muscles larger and stronger. Synthetic steroids are very similar to natural ones.

Physicians can use anabolic steroids as a treatment for a variety of conditions. In very small and controlled doses, steroids can, among other things, encourage people with muscle-wasting conditions to gain weight, control certain breast cancers, treat blood disorders, heal severe burns and relieve bone pain for people who have osteoporosis. Not all steroids are made from hormones, nor are all hormones made of steroids. Physicians use another steroid called corticosteroid, also known as cortisone. This catabolic steroid helps reduce swellings in the body.

Some people use anabolic steroids to build their muscles and increase their endurance and speed. Since the 1950s, some athletes have used anabolic steroids to enhance their performance in competitions. But using steroids like this can cause side effects that are very serious.

Steroids can cause liver disorders, stunted growth in children and teenagers, personality changes, ulcerous acne and high cholesterol levels. Because steroids are made from synthetically-produced testosterone, which imitates human sex hormones, they can also cause wasting of the testicles, impotence and negative changes in sexuality. Sometimes, when steroids are used illegally, they are injected with needles. Sharing these needles can also pass on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, that causes the deadly disease AIDS.

Things to Talk About

  1. Have any athletes gotten in trouble for using steroids? What do they think about steroids now?
  2. Are other illegal drugs used in sports?
  3. What other kinds of hormones are there? How important are these in the natural functions of the body?

Muscle--A tissue consisting of cells which have the power to contract. The contraction of muscles causes movement of joints.

Cortisone--A steroid hormone made by the cortex of the adrenal gland. It functions in cell metabolism, diminishes local inflammation and helps the healing of wounds.

Hormone--In animals, an organic substance produced by endocrine glands which help coordinate body functions. Hormones may be cholesterol derivatives, e.g., steroid hormones; amino acid derivatives e.g., thyroxin; or polypeptides, e.g., insulin. They are secreted directly into the vascular system and carried by blood to the site(s) of their activity.

Anabolic--Insofar as steroids are concerned, those effects involving the synthesis of protein for muscle growth and reparation.


Additional Sources of Information

Activity Page

For the Record What's your opinion?

Ask yourself and your friends and family what they think about the drug controversies surrounding sports today!

Main Activity

Before people can make rules and laws about certain activities, they collect scientific data, evidence and opinions. Here's your chance to state your opinion and compare it to other opinions at school, in the community, or at home.


1. Use the statements below to collect the opinions of five friends or family members.

2. Read each statement aloud. Do you agree or disagree? Record your answers and your friends' answers next to the statements.

Sports Opinion Poll

1. All high schools should have drug information programs for their athletes.

2. Major league sports teams must take a firmer stand against anabolic steroid use by athletes.

3. Competitive sports in elementary school create performance pressure for young students that may later lead them to use anabolic steroids.

4. All junior and senior high school athletes should be tested regularly for anabolic steroid use.

5. Governments should encourage athletes to use anabolic steroids in Olympic competition so they have a better chance of winning medals.

6. A portion of the money made from sporting events should be used to treat athletes who have become dependent on anabolic steroids or other drugs.

7. Physicians and athletic trainers who provide anabolic steroids to athletes should lose their licenses to practice and have to pay large fines.


1. Are there any statements on which everyone agrees? Disagrees?

2. Can you make a graph out of the responses? What does this show you?

3. Who would benefit from knowing the results of your poll? How can you make a difference?

Interview several people who are active in sports, have arthritis or suffer from other joint injuries. Find out if they have been treated with steroids for inflammation. What kind of steroids were they given? Did the steroids help their conditions improve? Were there any side effects?

Exercise and training is still the best way to be physically fit. Learn ways you can improve your performance through practice. Exercise, practice, and then take the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports test.

Just like smoking, overeating or using drugs, steroids can be habit-forming. Are you "hooked" on anything like chocolate, soda, or television? Whatever it is, try to stop doing it for one week. What does it feel like going without it? Do you act differently? Have you replaced one habit with another?

How strong are you? Some people who do not have large or strong muscles can out perform people who do by using a little technology. Have two people with brooms stand about 60 cm apart with the brooms held upright in front of their bodies. Grab the two brooms and try to pull them together. The two people holding the brooms can easily keep them apart. Now tie a rope securely to one broom and wind the rope around both brooms three or four times. Be sure the rope does not cross itself. Ask the broom holders to try to keep the broom apart while you pull on the rope. What happens? Were the broom holders surprised? Where else have you seen technology like this in use?

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Educational materials developed with the National Science Teachers Association.

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