Gabe Mirkin, M.D.
When I look at today's baseball players, I just can't believe how big they are. They are larger and stronger than the best players of the 1930s to 1970s. Babe Ruth, arguably the greatest hitter who ever lived, was a fat elephant with relatively small muscles and a huge belly compared to the average player today. The best baseball players in the world 30 years ago probably would not even make the major league teams because they were to small and too weak.
You may say that the reason they are bigger is because they lift weights, because athletes didn't lift weights thirty years ago. You are right, but I lift weights and I don't look like the smallest baseball players today. Very few people who lift weights develop muscles that stretch their skins to the limit. An article in Sports Illustrated quotes baseball player Ken Caminiti, saying that "at least half the players are using steroids". That has to be true. When you lift a heavy weight, your muscles tear, so you feel sore the next day. Then you take the next two to ten days easy to allow the soreness to go away and your muscles to heal, because you know that when the soreness goes away, your muscles will be stronger than they were before you lifted and damaged them. Soon you find out that you can lift very heavy weights only once every week or two, and that lifting heavy more often than that will make your muscles sore all the time so you can‘t even lift a bat or throw a baseball. You are stuck with gaining the benefits of lifting heavy weights only about once every ten days.
Then some one tells you to try steroids. You have been told not to take them because steroid pills go to your liver where they lower blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol to increase your risk for heart attack. Your friends tell you that if you take anabolic steroids or male hormones by injection, the steroids don't even reach your liver, so they don't cause heart attacks. So you start taking steroid injections and a strange thing happens. You used to take ten to 14 days to recover from lifting very heavy weights and suddenly you can recover in 48 hours, so you can lift very heavy weights every second or third day. After a couple of months, you notice that you have gained 15 pounds of muscle and you are hitting the ball further than you ever did before. Your manager is delighted with you because he pays you to hit the long ball because the fans love home runs and they idolize home run hitters.
You decide that if getting the injections once a week made you this strong, getting the same dose twice a week should make you even stronger. So you double the dose and you do become stronger and you hit more home runs. The fans love you. You feel no guilt because most ball players are getting steroid shots also. Then you go to three shots a week and you swing hard at a ball, you hear a pop and your shoulder hurts like hell. You go to the team physician who tells you that you have torn your rotator cuff and that you should have surgery. You are afraid of surgery, so you don't get it and you continue to take two or thee shots or male hormones a week. Your shoulder heals in six weeks and your doctor is shocked that you have healed so quickly. You don't tell him why you have healed, and you continue to take the shots. Then you slide into third base, and break the cartilage in your knee. You go to your doctor who does some blood tests and tells you that your liver tests are all abnormal. You tell him that you are on steroids, he tells you that steroids break cartilage and can damage your liver. You stop taking steroids, but your knee never heals and you are out of baseball. Four years later, your knee hurts so much that you can't sleep at night and you have to have a knee replacement. Now the only exercise you can do is ride a bicycle.
Anabolic steroids help you recover faster so you can lift heavy weights more often. This makes you stronger and a better athlete, but it also can increase your risk for heart attack, liver damage, shrinks you testicles, make you infertile, make you act crazy, and eventually cause an injury that never heals. Is it worth it? All the athletes that I have asked say yes. I have a very close friend who is an Olympic champion and was once one of the greatest and most famous athletes in the world. He has two knee and one hip replacements. I asked him if it was worth it. He looked at me as if I was an idiot and said "of course". I know he is right because I don't have an Olympic gold medal.