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The Dangers of Steroids and Painkillers in Sports

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Sometimes in the world of professional sports, there are unfortunate stories that represent men and women not reaching their fullest potential. These athletes work hard for their accomplishments, but at some point in time start to value the goal over the process. One area that is particularly tempting for athletes to fall into, is the sticky, dangerous pit that is steroids and painkillers.

Perhaps no NFL draft is more famously known for being a bust, than that of Tony Mandarich. Part of a legendary NFL draft, he is one of the only top five athletes to not be inducted into the hall of fame from that year,1989. The impressive 6’5” offensive lineman, had a stellar college career playing for the Michigan Spartans. Inspired by his older brother, John Mandarich who had a successful career in Candian football, Tony would go on to be the second overall draft for the NFL in 1989 with seemingly unlimited potential. Unfortunately, another influence that his older brother had on Tony was the use of performance-enhancing steroids.

This hulk of a man dominated the competition in college but proved to have a less than stellar career in the professional league. Largely, this is responsible for the fact that Tony became addicted to pain killers as well as performance enhancers. When his older brother and inspiration lost his battle with cancer and died in 1993, this shook the young Tony to his core. This event would lead to Tony admitting his problem and checking himself into rehab in 1995.

The silver lining to the Tony Mandarich story, is that there is hope for athletes who have made this kind of mistake. Sober for 27 years, Mandarich now works as a successful photographer and travels speaking at public engagements to inspire and encourage others from making the decisions he’s made. He even wrote a book outlining his journey, and stands as an advocate to help athletes who have found themselves in a similar situation as his younger self.

Why Take Performance Enhancers and Painkillers?

One of the biggest dangers of professional-level sports like the NFL, NBA, and others, is the sheer toll that it takes on the athletes that pursue them. These sports take a lot out of any athlete who wants to take them seriously. One of the driving motivations to abuse painkillers or performance-enhancing steroids is simple the drive to succeed and win.

Accomplishment at any cost is a dangerous place to be. The human body when put under extreme stress and pressure, such as a rigorous training regimen, will give off warning signs when it’s in danger of damage. For some athletes, painkillers can become a way of coping with too much stress and pressure. From this coping mechanism, the addiction can become crippling and threaten to ruin their lives. Painkiller addictions are some of the most heinous kinds of addictions and can wreak havoc on those who fall into them.

When an athlete is also using performance-enhancing drugs, they are subjecting their body to unnatural stress and pressure. Because the athlete is now performing past what they are naturally capable of without the steroids, the need for painkillers can become more pronounced. This can create a very vicious and sick cycle that can not only ruin careers but even personal lives.

What Are the Side Effects of Steroids?

Performance-enhancing steroids are hormones that are associated with growth and strength. One of the most common steroids to be abused is testosterone. This hormone naturally exists in men and women and is responsible for a lot of processes that deal with growth, maturation, and strength. When testosterone is taken unnaturally, it can help to improve a person’s ability to gain muscle mass and strength.

While a steroid can increase a person’s strength, this is false inflation and it is unsustainable. Not only will this kind of bulk not last without continued steroidal treatment, but it can cause some very unfortunate side effects. When the body is exposed to unnatural amounts of testosterone, it can cause excess facial and body hair in both men and women. In men, it can actually decrease the amount of head hair, as well as shrink testicular size.

The hormone imbalance can affect everything from energy levels to appetite, and even have adverse reactions to mood. In women, it can cause irregularities in their menstrual cycle, and in both men and women can affect sexual drive and even performance. In some cases, it has even led to infertility.


The path of steroid and painkiller abuse in professional sports is one that is laden with pitfalls. For the athlete that becomes desperate enough to go down this dark path, there are repercussions that can be life-altering. Any athlete who is feeling tempted to abuse steroids and painkillers, or currently is abusing and wants to stop, should immediately seek professional help and counseling.

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