The baseball season is about to begin, and once again, steroid use is dominating the sports news in the print media and in the electronic media. I have counseled many athletes who have used steroids or performance enhancing substances and I have helped a number of them to end this destructive and illegal behavior.
In my view, there are a number of psychological, sociological, financial and cultural forces which are driving steroid use:
1. Some athletes are quite frightened and insecure. They are afraid of performing poorly, letting others down and embarrassing themselves.They feel that steroids will give them the edge they need to perform at a very high level.
2. Some athletes are very invested in the size of their muscles as well as the shape and appearance of their bodies. If they don’t look big and powerful, they can feel unsafe and weak. Also, in their minds, if they are bigger, they are somehow better than the persons they are competing against.
3. The huge financial rewards can encourage people to cheat with performance enhancing drugs. Some athletes feel the rewards make the risks worthwhile.
4. Coaches, owners, league officials and teammates have looked the other way where steroid use is concerned. And, in some instances, they have encouraged players to engage in this drug use. A football player who was a patient of mine what told that he needed to gain twenty pounds of muscle during the summer. His coach winked at him and said, “You need to do it, no matter what it takes, if you want to play on my team.” If there were stricter rules and more severe penalties, steroid use would decline.
5. We live in a culture where people are always looking for short cuts and quick fixes. Steroids are an example of another of the appeal of immediate solutions to life problems.
6 .Some athletes enjoy living on the edge and pushing themselves to the limit. Engaging in risky steroid use and the possibility of being caught create a kind of adventure which some people seem to enjoy.
7. In some cases, athletes who have been on top in their sport can not seem to tolerate losing or being out of the number one position. Steroids can help them to remain on top and avoid the bad feelings they experience when they perform poorly. They feel they will keep their star status as long as they perform well. If they perform poorly, they are fearful that they will no longer be loved and admired.
8. The people who develop these substances are getting very sophisticated and it is getting harder to detect practices like blood doping and some performance enhancing substances.
9. Some athletes who I have counseled are addicted to steroids, alcohol, and other drugs. They are relying on these substances to manage their feelings, their problems and their stress. Athletes who are using all of these substance are in danger and need professional help.
10. There is a widespread and prevalent culture of cheating which is prevalent in sports, business and relationships. I am not sure if this is new or if cheating has been widespread throughout history. Some would say that man has looked for advantages and edges since the beginning of time.
However, I do believe that sports, coaches, athletes and society will be better off, if we control steroid use and restore as much honesty and integrity as we can into our society.