In the months leading to the Beijing Olympics, a handful of athletes had tested positive for steroids and other illegal substances. Those athletes had been disallowed to join the Summer Games.

During the duration of international multi-sport event, which officially started on 8th August and ended on the 24th, six athletes had been found out to have used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. The six athletes were disqualified and/or stripped of their medals and could face a ban from their respective sports. Apparently, doping is a risky business, and the big question is why do athletes insist on using steroids?

Professional and Olympic athletes use steroids for the simple fact that steroids work.

To some athletes, the beneficial effects of steroids outweigh the deleterious ones.

Steroids can cause feminization symptoms in men – growth of breast tissues and testicular atrophy. In females, virilization symptoms can occur, such as hair growth in other parts of the body and clitoral enlargement. In both sexes, acne breakout and infertility can be possible side effects of steroids.

But these synthetic hormones can also make one bigger, stronger, and faster.

A Reuters article in 2007 explains how steroids work.

“It’s not just a question of improving muscular strength and recovery,” said Jay Hoffman, chairman of the department of Health & Exercise Science at The College of New Jersey and a former National Football League player who says he used steroids. “Hypothetically, there’s a good chance that taking anabolic steroids will have a chance to make you faster and quicker,” Hoffman said in a telephone interview.

In September, article physicist Roger Tobin of Tufts University in Boston said steroids could help baseball players hit 50 percent more home runs by boosting their muscle mass by just 10 percent.

He said 10 percent more muscle mass would help a player swing about 5 percent faster, increasing the ball’s speed by 4 percent as it leaves the bat.

“A 4 percent increase in ball speed, which can reasonably be expected from steroid use, can increase home run production by anywhere from 50 percent to 100 percent,” Tobin said.

Given these statistics, it’s of no wonder why athletes in diverse sports resort to steroids to give them an advantage over their opponents. It has been reported though that steroids alone will not create winners. There is no substantiated evidence that even ultra-high doses of popular steroids will cause muscle and strength gains. Steroids can promote muscle growth and strength if taken along with intensive training and proper diet (preferably a high protein diet). The training should be carried out before and during steroid intake.