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Guest Opinion: The dangers of PEDs for teen athletes

  • (GARY VARVEL / Indianapolis Star)

The ongoing saga regarding professional athletes and PEDs, or performance-enhancing drugs, minimizes the real problem concerning the consequences for players and drug suppliers.

For years, those in power have looked in the other direction when dealing with performance-enhancing drugs. That is, higher athletic performance means money to the athletes as well as to their teams. However, there is something far more insidious than the consequence of a suspension or lost money for perpetrators.

Instead, the discussion should focus on the effect such athletes have on our most vulnerable and impressionable audience — namely our kids.

An estimated 4 percent to 12 percent of U.S. high school boys and up to 3.3 percent of high school girls have used anabolic steroids. Other studies suggest middle school use as well.

For teens, the most common performance-enhancing drugs and supplements include creatine, a naturally occurring compound in the body that is also sold as an over-the-counter supplement. It is primarily used to enhance recovery after a workout and increases muscle mass and strength.

Creatine is popular with athletes in football, gymnastics, hockey, wrestling etc. Side effects include weight gain, nausea, muscle cramps and kidney damage. Popular drugs include anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the hormone testosterone and are used to build muscle and increase strength. They are popular with football players and weightlifters. Use of anabolic steroids can cause heart and liver damage and halt bone growth.

Finally, there are the steroid precursors. Steroid precursors, such as androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone, are substances that the body converts into anabolic steroids. They are used to increase muscle mass. Most steroid precursors are illegal without a prescription. Dehydroepiandrosterone, however, is still available in over-the-counter preparations. Side effects of steroid precursors are similar to those for steroids.

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