Steroids are a hot topic in the bodybuilding and strength athletics communities. On one hand, you get athletes who are completely unashamed by their usage of performance enhancing drugs, seeing steroids as simply another point on a long checklist of things that they have to do in order to succeed. Steroids help them reach a higher level of potential than they would have been able to otherwise, so they don’t see any reason why steroids shouldn't be used. On the other hand you have athletes who swear off steroids completely and take great pride in being clean, seeing steroids as a crutch. I fall on neither side, but rather sit comfortably somewhere in the middle.
First of all, steroids do work. There’s no question of that. Steroids allow an athlete to build more strength and musculature than he or she would have been able to otherwise. In one sense, this means that steroids do unlock the full potential of the athlete. However, care should be taken to point out that steroids are, in the other sense, a crutch. A steroid user may find their goals being reached more easily, meaning that they don’t need to try as hard and therefore their performance suffers when they don’t have steroids to help them. The functioning of steroids is similar to that of assistance equipment in lifting (belts, straps, etc.), and should be done intelligently.
I would also like to point out that steroids are no catch-all solution. In the same way that putting a lifting belt on doesn't immediately enable a rookie lifter to suddenly double their lifts, steroids aren't immediately going to transform a mediocre athlete into a good one. I take a similar position on supplements in general: while they do work, they represent a relatively small piece of the picture. When taken in conjunction with a good diet, proper rest, and of course a good exercise training regimen, these supplements will provide a noticeable benefit. But for rookie athletes and casual gym goers, it will likely be more beneficial to focus on these aspects than to worry about forking over lots of cash for expensive supplements, or to risk their health taking steroids.
My second major point is that steroids aren't nearly as dangerous as the media hypes them up to be. The media always blows everything out of proportion, and steroids are in general much safer than they've often been made out to be. This doesn't, of course, mean that steroids are safe, by any stretch of the word. Steroids mess with the body’s hormones and hormone regulation, which can have all sorts of nasty side effects. Two of the most dangerous include increased risk of heart attacks and potential liver damage. In both cases, these effects can worsen over time (sustained steroid usage being more dangerous than occasional), and are generally less likely to have serious effects on young, healthy individuals. As such, it’s possible that these side effects won’t really affect younger athletes, but as they begin to pass their prime the danger in using steroids only increases.
Ultimately, it’s my opinion that steroids can have minimal side effects and plenty of usefulness if used intelligently and sparingly. However, I still have no intention to ever use steroids. This is because I see no reason to sacrifice my health for my goals. One of the main reasons that I work out is to remain healthy, and while I spend two hours a day working out in order to achieve my goals, I see no point in killing myself before I can do so. The number of athletes who have had to bow out of lifting sports, both amateur and otherwise, because of permanent damage to their bodies as a result of their drug use, is large, and I have no intention of becoming one of those people littered on the ground on the pathway to victory. Steroids would help me, yes, but they really don’t mean anything to me. Sure, I could get stronger faster, but I really don’t care. I can be as strong as I need to be without them, so why should I need more than that? Sure, steroids might speed things up, but again, see my above point.
It isn't that I find steroids extremely dangerous, just that any level of danger on an internal level can potentially cause permanent damage and a lasting threat to my life. The potential of breaking a bone or tearing a muscle as a result of my training, on the other hand, is a form of damage from which the body can recover relatively easily. Hormonal changes and internal organ damage aren't.
Once I had a training consultation with an early fifties man who wanted to work primarily on his chest. Not going to the gym regularly, he mostly did hundreds of pushups in his home. Aside from this, he worked twelve to fourteen hours a day, meaning that he had little time to eat anything. I advised him that if he wanted to build mass, his first priorities should be on eating more and on getting into the gym to train with free weights. But he had a different plan in mind: he wanted to take steroids instead, thinking that they would be the magical link that he was missing. This sort of mindset astounded me. This man was the exact picture of someone for whom steroids should be extremely low on the list of options. He really had only two options at his disposal: admit to himself that he didn't really have the time or the dedication to look good, or take steroids and risk serious bodily harm in order to make himself look good at an age when people really shouldn't be concerning themselves with such issues.Of course, this all boils down to my own opinion. Everyone is free to make their own decisions about steroids, based on their own value judgments. There’s plenty of material out there on the internet for people to learn about all the specific positives and negatives of steroid use on their own, and I don’t claim to have any sort of final say on this. I only hope that others do their own research before making any hasty decisions.