Friday, 23 March 2012

Steroids Users are Smarter than You

On October 22, 2010, the Calgary police seized 21 different anabolic steroids with a street value of $50,000.00 from a South East Calgary address and arrested Jordan James Cutts for possession for the purpose of trafficking and benefiting from the proceeds of crime.

Anabolic steroids have been given a lot of attention by the media in recent years.  From athletes cheating to enhance their performance, to American politicians addressing a supposed epidemic of use among youth, to the entrance of steroids into common parlance, it is difficult to find anybody who lacks an opinion on steroid use. 

Steroid talk is ubiquitous in modern dialogue, and not all of it is negative.  You might find yourself saying that a car is “on steroids” when you admire its performance.  You might say the same thing about your new computer, stereo, or smart phone.  Steroids are good.  They mean faster, stronger, and more powerful. 

Yet “on steroids” is also synonymous with cheating.  You only need to ask a sports fan about Ben Johnson, Mark McGwire, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Steroid users are those devious cheaters trying to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.  They are sneaky, dishonourable, and not to be admired, at least, not openly.

In 2005, the American Congress spent 8 of 151 days in session debating the use of anabolic steroids in sports.  That’s more time devoted to steroid use than to national healthcare.  The importance of this debate was encapsulated by Joe Biden. “This is about values.  It’s about our culture.  It’s about who we define ourselves to be.”  Of course, the great concern was that young athletes would emulate the behaviour of their heroes.  This would cause an epidemic among youth.  It would wreck their health, their relationships, and ultimately, their character.  These young athletes would never learn the value of hard work, honesty, and integrity.  This could destroy an entire generation of young Americans.

Even more dire, “on steroids” can evoke images of illicit drug use, dingy locker rooms, and clandestine meetings.  Rightly or wrongly, it is widely assumed that steroids are addictive.  They produce “roid-rage”.  They grotesquely distort users’ bodies and minds, and destroy health, relationships, and family.  Ultimately, steroid users are treacherous, anti-social meat-heads, who are the intellectual companions of Neanderthals.

These connotations are a strange mix of the desirable, dishonourable, and the dangerous.  Yet for all the opinions held by the public, very little is known regarding who is using anabolic steroids.  And this might surprise you.

Nearly 3 million Americans have used anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes.  For the most part, these Americans are not na├»ve youth enamoured with steroid-using role models.  They are not athletes secretly using steroids in contravention of sporting rules.  And they are certainly not addicts making drug deals in dark alleys.  The average steroid user is a much less likely candidate. 

A study published in 2007 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that the typical steroid user in America is a highly-educated, gainfully employed professional of approximately 30 years of age.  This typical steroid-user earns a higher-than-average income, is not involved in organized sport, and is motivated by the desire to improve health through physical activity and steroids.

This completely undercuts the popular ideas regarding steroid use.  Speaking generally, steroid users are not impressionable youth—they are young adults fully capable of making informed decisions about their own health.  Steroid users are not devious cheaters—they are not involved with organized sport and are not bound by the rules of any sporting body.  Steroid users are not less intelligent—they are professionals with more than average education.  And steroid users bear little resemblance to addicts—they are seeking to improve their health not feeding a habit.

If the Canadian experience is similar, it makes me wonder if I know any of Jordan James Cutts’s customers.  Maybe I see them at the gym.  Maybe I talk with them at the water cooler at work.  In any event, it seems that steroid users are among the best and brightest of our peers and the stereotypes are wrong.

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