This Sound Off column is being written with a measure of sadness not only at the present state of what Charles Gaines referred to in Pumping Iron as the 'art and sport of bodybuilding' but the world of sports in general.
Drugs have become so prevalent in sports that Congressional hearings hae been held on the subject of steroids in baseball, but Congress did not even uncover the tip of the iceberg. Performance enhancing drugs extend far beyond both steroids and the baseball diamond.
The current buzzword may be steroids, but the list of performance enhancing drugs includes human growth hormone (hGH), IGF-1, insulin (yes, insulin), EPO, clenbuterol, diuretics, central nervous system stimulators, and a variety of anabolic steroids. The use of such 'doping' agents extends throughout the wide world of sports from the more visibly suspect bodybuilding, powerlifting, weightlifting and football to baseball, track and field, swimming, soccer, volleyball, tennis, ice hockey, cross country skiing and even table tennis.
For years there have been denials of the negative physical and mental effects of such drugs, but time and clinical evidence have uncovered a cornucopia of side effects that range from high blood pressure, adverse changes in HDL/LDL cholesterol levels, heart problems, stroke, kidney problems and liver damage to headaches, acne, hair loss, decrease in sex drive and function, and increased risk of connective tissue injury. Case in point: in recent years a number of top bodybuilders, powerlifters and strongman competitors, most of them young men still in their 30s, have succumbed to medical problems. Among a handful of elite bodybuilders from the 1990s to the present there have been to date 10 deaths, 3 cases of failed kidneys and 3 bypass surgeries. When we compile statistics including lesser known figures in the sport, the numers are even more staggering.
Sadly, it seems there is less and less sportsmanship in sports. It's becoming a matter of winning at all costs. But in bodybuilding, just to single out one endeavor, it's getting to the point where the winners are now the losers.