Sports and Steroids

Steroids taken during a drugs investigation.
US Drug Enforcement Administration

Do steroids make sports better? What problems do steroids cause? Are there any benefits? Joshua Leo and Liz Waid look at the issue of using steroid drugs in sports.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Joshua Leo.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Jaap Stam was living the dream of many young people. He was an athlete. Playing football was his job. As a sports player, Stam was healthy and successful. He had played for the famous football team Manchester United. He had a new job on another good football team - Lazio. But, in 2001 he took a test. The test found that he had used the drug steroids.

Voice 2 

Stam spent four months banned from football. He said that he had not used steroids on purpose. Stam returned to play football for many years. But he is only one of many athletes who have taken steroids. Why do some athletes use these drugs? What effect do steroids have on the body and on sports? Today’s Spotlight is on sports and steroids.

Voice 1 

Steroids are a strong version of testosterone. Human bodies create testosterone naturally. Women have low levels of testosterone. Men usually have higher levels of testosterone. This is why men usually have more muscle - the hard tissue on the body that gives people strength.

Voice 2 

Steroids give a person a very high level of testosterone. This makes the muscles in a person’s body grow faster and larger. Steroids were first invented as a medicine. They can be taken in by mouth, rubbed on the skin or injected. They have been used to treat people with cancer, HIV and AIDS and other diseases. But people who are not sick also use steroids.

Voice 1 

Athletes began using steroids in the 1950s. Steroids gave athletes an advantage. They could be stronger and faster than their competitors. By the 1960s many major sports organizations had passed laws against using steroids. The organizations began to test athletes to make sure that they were not using steroids.

Voice 2 

But if taking steroids was against the rules, why would athletes take them? Some people say that athletes feel a large amount of pressure to win. They think that athletes use steroids because other people expect so much of them. Althletes must always run faster, jump higher and be stronger! Jose Conseco is a famous baseball player in the United States. He admitted to using steroids. He told the U.S. House of Representatives:

Voice 3 

“There was so much pressure to win games, please my supporters, and get the big contract, for more money. It led me, and others, to behaviour that would produce immediate results. This is the same pressure that leads young people today to that same behaviour.”

Voice 1 

For these reasons, some athletes choose to take steroids. But when they do, they are also facing many risks. There are professional risks and also social and physical risks. Omar Ortiz is a football player from Mexico. In 2010 he took a test that said he had taken steroids. He was banned from playing football for two years.

Voice 2 

An athlete may also lose her awards. Marion Jones is a runner. In the year 2000 she won five medals at the Olympic games. But Jones had to return her awards because she had used steroids. Jones understood that her use of drugs affected her body. She also saw that it affected many other people. The Washington Post reports that Jones said:

Voice 4  

“I want to apologize to you all for all of this. I am sorry for making you all sad in so many ways."

Voice 1 

There are also problems for the sport when people are found to be using steroids.  Sports are based on being healthy and playing fairly - by the rules. People may lose interest in a sport if they know that some athletes have an unfair advantage.

Voice 2 

Steroids can also have many negative effects on physical health. These are problems with growing well and skin and hair problems. Steroids can also cause problems with the heart and the liver. They increase the chance of stroke and cancer. There are also side effects of steroids that affect behaviour. People who use steroids can become very angry without reason. The steroids may make them feel sad and worried. But many people use steroids even when they know the risks of physical problems.

Voice 1 

And many of the people who use steroids are quite young.  Dr. Linn Goldberg works for the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. She tells the news organization MSNBC:

Voice 5 

"Sports role models are very powerful in a young child’s life. They think that if a professional athlete had to use that, then maybe I should use that."

Voice 2 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse looked at young people in the United States. They found that over half of a million young people are using steroids. These 13 to 15 year olds care very much about doing well in sports. They are also very concerned about having a strong body. They are even willing to take risks with their health. Studies show that using steroids is even more dangerous for very young people.

Voice 1 

Yet there are also people with different ideas about steroids and sports. Some people argue that steroids should be made legal. Some people say that steroids are not very different than what athletes have been doing for many years. Kenan Malik of the BBC says:

Voice 6 

"But scientists already help athletes win. Cyclist Chris Boardman won his Olympic Gold in 1992. He was sitting on a specially created machine - his two wheeled bicycle. In the Rugby World Cup, England players wore special shirts. These shirts were very close to their bodies. They were designed so the other team could not hold on to them. In these two cases the scientific work did not reduce the sporting victory. Why should we see drug use differently?”

Voice 2 

Other people say that if steroids were legal, they would cause less damage. Adrianne Blue writes in The New Statesman:

Voice 7 

“Steroids may not be desirable, but they are here to stay. We should make steroids legal. Then they can be controlled. And athletes will not take too much and do themselves damage."

Voice 1 

Do you think that making steroids legal would be a good solution? What is the effect of steroid use on your favourite sport? You can leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at radio at radioenglish dot net. You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio.

Voice 2 

The writer and producer of this program was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Sports and Steroids’.

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!


Do you think using steroid drugs harms sports or does it improve an athlete's skill? Should sports organizations allow steroid use?


Avatar Spotlight
said on February 27, 2012

I think sure no. If will be steroids legal it won´t be a natural. It will be not about human power but about chemical progrress. And it isn´t a sport.

Avatar Spotlight
said on February 27, 2012

I think that using steroids, special T-shirts, special swimsuits, special two weeled bycikles, and special artificial legs, damage sport in general. So them should be banned in sports.
Steroids users are cappable to defeat other competitors, whose do not use such substaces but this is not a fair play. Michael Felps in last olimpic games which took place in Beijing China was the best swimmer. Later I read that he used an expensive swimsuit which helped Felps to gaine all races. We in Europe enjoy footboll more than other kind of sports. But often in different matches I doubt if they are playing fairly or are drug users. No wonder they are using different drugs.

Avatar Spotlight
José María de Córdoba
said on February 28, 2012

Hi everyone, I’m practic sports all my life and I’m sure for to be a good atlete there isn’t drugs and steroids. Alone is possible if you are special body.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 15, 2012

I find that using speroid is not legal and unfair for other players. We play any kind of sport for good health not for wining. I have never been accepting for using speroid for legally . It is not naturally and completely unfair for other competitors.

From Cambodia

Learning Everything's avatar
Learning Everything
said on March 23, 2015

When an athletes who want to win in a contest, they must have practice their-self in high condition discipline, beside that they need eating enough sustenance and avoid some activities that make them weakness or sickness as drinking alcohol, sex… that is a right athletes.

If we agree for them to use steroids, it look like to abuse chemical to push up their energy in a contest, so a sport is not fair-play any more.

Thanks Spotlightradio. GOD bless everybody.

JoaoVBR's avatar
said on March 26, 2015

Athletes must overcome their limits with their own skills, that are developed gradually. But when they use steroids, they are “jumping” this step and are getting a unfair advantage in a game.
So, I think that there are no reason to make steroids legal, unless in a case to medicinal usage.

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 27, 2015

I think totally DON’T accept to use steroid.

For example: Athlete A have strength greater than B

If we accept with limit amount of steroids, all athletes will use the same. So what does the diffence result with the case all don’t use steroids ?

In my opinion sport is training our body more strength, why should we use steroids ? Using that drug in competition mean you don’t believe in yourselves. I know the pressure altheles have, but friends (altheles), you should play for your indulgence, not play because money or anything else. :)

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 27, 2015

Using steroids to athletes? For whom is this rule intended?

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 29, 2015

Not acceptable. No tolarance should be given to use steroids or other kind of things which is unnatural to human body and to provide more strength over the competitors…

This is just sport which is a challenge for all sportsmen to make better and better and to force human body without a
taking any additional supplementary like steroids..
Otherwise, we can create super human models like robots for the competiton and this will be like a sport with chemistry…

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on March 15, 2016

From: Severino Ramos (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))
To: spotlight
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Tuesday 15, March 2016

Dear Liz Waid, Rena Dam, and Joshua Leo:

Once more, I want to thank you by more one excellent matter that you have shown for us. Yes, I do. No, It should not allow steroid use. Each player or person that practice a kind of sport should get your goal by himself or herself so they should not have any help from steroids. This substance cause serious problems for health’s players as such as: liver, heart, sexual organ, skin, hair, and brain problems. Noboby should use this substance it can die one and million people.

Your regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 24, 2016

first i would to thank every one who made this wonderful program secondly i think steroid is not good for the healthy of the persons who doing different kinds of sports because every drug has its own benefit and its own harmful so i think steroid is not good for athletes

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 12, 2018

A Brazilian senator, Marta Suplicy, declared that “if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” Now we are seeing some countries legalizing the use of drugs such as marijuana and even heavier drugs such as heroin, cocaine, etc. They think they will elicit the crimes and decrease the consumption of such drugs. I think this is a real assault on common sense.
Steroids are dangerous drugs and their use in sports should be banned with all rigor. The athlete who uses steroids can not be called an athlete, but a liar, deceiver, dishonest and thief. In my point of view, if a person is caught on anti-doping exams, he should be banished from the sport for the rest of his miserable life.