One of the easiest ways to jeopardize your legitimacy as an athlete and the legacy of your career is to get caught abusing performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
In the cases of Diego Maradona, Tyson Gay and Arnold Schwarzenegger, any past doping incidents have been mostly swept under the rug and each athlete is still regarded as one of the all-time best competitors in their respective fields. All have been extremely influential in their respective sports and have manifested entire generations of new, inspired athletes.
However, PED use is still frowned upon and often leads to judgement toward the user. Almost all elite level competitions have banned steroid use during play to mitigate the chances of athletes showing up on game day with an unfair advantage. Most players are required to take a drug test, and if they fail, they can’t compete.
In any major sport, including soccer, football and basketball, among others, doping is synonymous with cheating, and most fans do not take kindly to other players trying to get the upper hand on their favorite team or athlete. PED scandals tend to result in a bad image for any player, followed by some sort of fine or punishment. It is in an athlete’s best interest to neither openly discuss nor admit to steroid use.
While PEDs can be wildly dangerous and should be banned under almost all circumstances, the current attitude the public shares toward steroid use is one backed by no real education on the subject.
For starters, how easy do you think it is to pass a drug test? For habitual, predictable testing periods, athletes can easily predict when to start or stop taking certain PEDs. While some drugs can take a few weeks to leave the body completely, others may only take two to three days. Hypothetically, a particularly smart athlete who knows when they might get tested could cycle steroids in their off-season, get off of their supplements a few days before they are tested and immediately continue to juice the second after they urinate into their test cup.
PED testing is almost exclusively for athletes. Steroids are no more difficult to obtain than any hard, socially unacceptable drug on the illegal market. Just as someone who “knows a guy,” any built, extremely lean fitness influencer on social media can get their hands on PEDs.
Herein lies the problem. Since people are so quick to judge others for their PED use, very few people in the fitness industry will come out and openly admit to steroid consumption. While it is understandable that association of a desirable physique with drug use could result in audience members juicing in order to achieve their dream body, the opportunity costs of the public’s current mentality potentially outweigh this concern.
On social media, the most aesthetic bodies are achieved through genetics, hard work, drugs or a combination of the three. All three are primarily kept behind the scenes. Since influencers are concerned with transparency about steroid use tarnishing their image online, they are forced to lie about their experiences and ultimately leave drugs out of the equation for their success. If the average audience member were to try to work toward the standard promoted on social media, they would likely fail to meet that unrealistic expectation without the aid of PEDs (with exceptions). This is the recipe for feelings of inadequacy and negative body image for social media consumers.
In truth, more people in the fitness industry have begun opening up about PED use. At this point, many engaged members of the fitness community are aware that most competitors in the running for elite-level bodybuilding competitions are enhanced. Additionally, some individuals on social media have openly revoked their “natty” status and have started to educate their audiences about the serious dangers and potential benefits of taking PEDs.
However, outside of the knowledge within the fitness community, normal people typically have no idea what’s going on. The negative stigma behind PED use is still real. Steroids are seen as this extreme, insanely risky drug, when in reality something like an injection of synthetic testosterone is not too far from taking birth control. Along with this, mild PED dosage is not nearly as dangerous as the potential risks of irresponsible alcohol consumption, and alcohol is widely considered a socially acceptable drug.
In regards to PEDs, the lack of public education has done a major disservice to social media consumers in the electronic age. In health class, I hardly recall ever talking about steroids in depth, and my school was well-funded. For underfunded programs, I doubt that PEDs become a focal point of their discussions either. Arming susceptible students with information about steroids would not only help prevent the prejudice against those who choose to take them, but also avoid the possibility of people getting hooked in the first place.