Lessons learned from steroids in baseball — better stay off the juice
By Lisa Sweetingham, Special to The Los Angeles TimesI'm not a huge baseball fan. I don't know what all the stats mean or how many home runs away from godlike status Alex Rodriguez might be. But when left fielder Manny Ramirez rolled into Los Angeles last year, Dodger fever struck.
May 17, 2009, 10:24 am TWN
I became a regular reader of the sports pages of the newspaper and discovered ESPN on the TV channel lineup. And I was charmed to learn that a friend's 8-year-old daughter, a Pony League All-Star slugger, had taped pictures of Ramirez to her bedroom wall when most girls her age covet the Jonas Brothers.
All that Manny love turned cold earlier this month after he was suspended for 50 games for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy — bad news that came just days after allegations that A-Rod may have been juicing as early as high school and during his time as a Yankee.
As a journalist, I've spent several years hanging out with drug dealers and drug cops to cover the trade, and I suspect that the reasons people take performance-enhancement drugs aren't so different from why they take cocaine or Ecstasy. They want to be better, sexier, more heroic versions of themselves. Bob Hazelton wanted that too, but more about him later.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids, which can be injected or taken orally, are synthetic derivatives of testosterone and have been used in clinical practice since the 1940s for burns, surgery, radiation therapy and, since the 1980s, for treatment of cancer and AIDS-associated wasting syndrome. Their earliest documented use for performance enhancement was in the 1950s, by Soviet weightlifters.
But in the last 30 years, usage has spread beyond elite athletes, who sought to secretly enhance their competitiveness, and into the realm of individuals who seek greater self-perceived attractiveness. Amateurs and professionals are equally at risk for side effects that, according to the Mayo Clinic, include liver abnormalities and tumors, high cholesterol, aggressive behavior, depression and severe acne. For adolescents, there is an additional risk of stunted growth.
Side effects specific to males include increased breast size, baldness, shrunken testicles and infertility. Females are at risk of baldness, increased body hair and a deeper voice — all of which recall the saga of Heidi Krieger, the 1986 former East German shot-put champion who was fed such high doses of steroids by her coaches that, in 1997, she gave in to her stunning metamorphosis, underwent a sex change operation and became Andreas Krieger.
Experts say chronic steroid abusers add “accessory” medications to their performance-enhancement cocktail. Although one steroid might make your muscles bigger, you'll need another to get that lean, cut look.