A MEDICAL OLYMPICS’ WORRIES DOCTOR
American swimmers return from international competition and talk about how their Eastern European opponents have facial hair and deep voices.
Unusual? Yes the subjects are women An Ease German swimmer defects to the Weal, and describes extensive use of anabolic steroids
Three of the world’s top women s 1,500-meter runners are disqualified. They are from Eastern Europe and their crime is use of anabolic steroids. It isn’t unusuai they just hap pen to get caught
The use of drugs by many Communist bloc countries is changing the balance of athletic power between East and -West, ad as the 1980 Olympics approach, it becomes one of the key issues.
“We are very concerned that the Olympics are becoming a medical Olympics,” siid Anthony Daly, the physician for the U S. Olympic team and an Inglcwood, Calif., orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine
Daly is also the North and South American representative on the medi cal committee of the International Amateur Athletic Union
And what he sees is an alarming growth of drugs used io manipulate athletes. The most prevalent drug is an anabolic steroid, and while its use has been found nearly everywhere, it is in the Communist bloc countries where it is prevalent
“We know they’ve been using it ” Daly said. “But the scary part is now it’s being used by distance runners “Previously it had been confined to these in the weight events It gave them added strength But this is the first time it has been used in dis tance events and heavily in females
Anabolic steroids’ incorporate a synthetic form of the male hormone testosterone. They increase strength in men and produce masculine char acteristks in women.
The term anabolic pertains to body building and metabolism If an athlete wants to increase strength and muscle bulk, (he dosage is modi fied for more anabolic effects, Daly said
The drug is taken in pill form, but can be injected. For the athlete Daly said, there is no medical reason for taking anabolic steroids. “It only artificially improves their perform ance ” he said
The effects of anabolic steroids arc widespread ranging from physical to mental to political.
It has long been felt that Commun ist bloc countries particularly the “Soviet Union and East Germany ~ and recently Third World nations have used sports as a platform for political messages
Thus, American athletes are up against more than another top athlete in international competition. They are competing against a sys tern, a philosophy
“Our athletes would like to see it stopped,” Daly said ‘ But they feel trapped in the situation “Maybe they will try it because they know it will improve their per formance They ask themselves ‘Do I warn to compete on a world class level or drop down They are trapped
Some American athletes have ined steroids, Daly said
“But the big problem here is that if you want to use them there’s no one to prescribe for them ” he said
The athlete begins to benefit – from the steroids two to three weeks after the first dose, Daly said And he or’ she returns to normal in four to six weeks after discontinuing it
But it’s not that simple Daly said anabolic steroids also affect the liver and can cause impotency and sterility in men and upset the menstrual function in women
“It’s supposed to be reversible ” – said Daly but no one knows the long term effects In 25 years from now will there be increased evidence of tumors’ That’s a quesaon we don t know the answer to ‘
Will its’use stop’ Probably not While the current tests used for international competition, including the Olympics can detect anabolic steroids, athletes have found a wa> around it
Daly said they discontinued use of the steroid a couple of weeks before the test But they maintain their added strength by switching to straight testosterone in the meantime
Since testosterone is a naturallv occurring substance in both sexes an abnormal amount cannot be delected After the event, the athlete swuches.back to the anabolic steroid
A MEDICAL OLYMPICS’ WORRIES DOCTOR