By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
If you've ever considered taking anabolic steroids to increase pitching velocity or gain lean muscle mass, there are a few things you should know: 1) steroids are illegal, 2) they're banned by the NCAA and MLB, and new testing procedures have made it nearly impossible to hide steroid use, and 3) the claims that you commonly hear about them improving pitching performance are mostly false.
In this article, I stick to the facts about anabolic steroids and baseball pitching. My hope is that instead of taking steroids, you will consider a better, safer alternative for increasing pitching velocity fast — The TUFFCUFF Strength and Conditioning Manual for Baseball Pitchers — which proves that getting to the next level requires work, not supplements.
There are essentially two types of steroids: 1) anti-inflammatory steroids designed to reduce inflammation, swelling, or pain, and 2) anabolic androgenic steroids designed to increase strength or muscle mass.
Anti-inflammatory steroids, or glucocorticosteroids, are most commonly known as cortisone or prednisone. Often professional baseball players are administered cortisone shots by a doctor to reduce inflammation and/or tendonitis.
Anabolic androgenic steroids are designed to increase muscle size and strength. (“Anabolic” indicates muscle-building properties; “Androgenic” indicates “masculinizing” properties.)
Testosterone essentially is the prototypical anabolic androgenic steroid, but unlike the “designer testosterones,” which appear on the “black market” under various pseudonyms — such as deca-durabolin, winstrol, stanzanol, etc. — testosterone actually is produced naturally in the male testes (in the amount of about 4 to 10 milligrams per day, in healthy individuals).
Testosterone, by its very classification as an anabolic steroid, has two distinct functions in the natural development of male human beings:
1. to build muscle size, increase lean-body mass, and increase body weight
2. to masculinize the body and develop normal male characteristics like facial hair, body hair, deep voice, and reproductive functions
Naturally occurring testosterone is, of course, what makes males, males. It's essential. And if your body does not produce adequate amounts of testosterone, numerous emotional and physical problems can occur, which may lead a physician to prescribe testosterone. However, such use in healthy athletes is extremely rare — and therefore, the use of additional testosterone is completely unnecessary.
The “more is better” mentality is creating huge problems for those experimenting with and taking steroids, particularly for baseball players. That's because as the potency of anabolic (muscle-building) effects are increased, so, too, are the negative side effects. Those side effects are something the government has known about since banning steroids in 1990 and classifying them in the same category as heroine, cocaine, and narcotics — a felony possession.
Anabolic steroids are controlled substances under federal law. In fact, the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 classifies anabolic steroid as Schedule III drugs, requiring a doctor's prescription for use.
* There are serious penalties for illegal manufacture, distribution, and non-medically prescribed use of anabolic steroid.
* Since 2001, steroids have been banned in major league baseball and minor league baseball -- if you use them, you can be suspended from baseball for life.
* Because the government has banned steroids, 90 percent of the steroids you see on the “black market” are either completely fake, completely untested, completely unregulated, or completely dangerous. These black market steroids should be avoided at all costs.
* There is no such thing as anabolic effects (muscle-building properties) without androgenic effects (the masculinization of the body like increased body hair, deeper voice, body acne, etc.). The result is that baseball pitchers who take steroids for their anabolic properties, to increase lean body mass, strength or endurance, cannot avoid the often harmful (and irreversible) properties of the androgenic effects.
* Since the increase of muscle mass associated with steroids is not accompanied by a corresponding increase in tendon or ligament or joint size or strength, the risk of serious injury is increased. This may be the No. 1 problem associated with anabolic steroid use.
Injuries are common among steroid users — and baseball pitchers are no exception to that rule. As mentioned above, the principal reason for baseball injury is that the increase of muscle mass or increased speed associated with anabolic androgenic steroid use is not accompanied by a proportionate increase in strength of the tendons, ligaments or joints.
Anabolic steroid use may have an actual negative effect on tendons and ligaments. One study, cited in a pamphlet by Major League Baseball provided to professional baseball players showed that chronic use of steroids reduced tendon strength.
Increased injury may also relate to the rapidity of weight gain, such as a baseball pitcher, baseball hitter, or baseball player gaining 30 or 40 pounds in a period of time much to short for his body to adapt to such a significant increase in size — which heightens the risk of injury dramatically. This is especially the case in baseball pitching, where a baseball pitcher is repeating an explosive movement in delivering a baseball pitch.
Other side effects? Addiction and acne.
Tendon and ligament problems, however, aren't the only negative side effects associated with steroid use. It is well-documented that anabolic steroids can and do cause a variety of mental changes, including irritability, excessive aggression, mania, paranoia, depression, anxiety and panic. Steroids can — and often do, in fact — lead to psychological and physical dependence, which makes is hard to curtail use.
Steroid users also place themselves at an increased risk of a permanent reduction of naturally produced testosterone — something which cannot be fixed — and, as a result, can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, male pattern baldness, acne, prostate enlargement, thyroid problems and more.
By now you should be familiar with some of the adverse effects associated with steroid use — changes in personality, hormonal effects, injury, etc.
The adverse effects of the Anabolic steroids also relate to the method of administration. anabolic steroids are generally used orally or intra-muscularly. If taken orally, most of the anabolic steroid is inactivated by the liver, resulting in an increased risk of decreased liver functions, liver tumors and cysts. If, on the other hand, the anabolic steroid is taken by injection, the risks associated with needle use emerge, including HIV, hepatitis and other infections.
Common injectible steroids:
* Deca-Durabolin (Nandrolone decanoate)
* Depo-testosterone (Testosterone cypionate)
* Delatestryl (Testosterone enanthate)
* Durabolin (Nandrolone phenpropionate)
* Primabolin (Metheneolone enanthate)
* Winstrol-depot (Stanozolol)
Common oral steroids:
* Anadrol-50 (Oxymetholone)
* Anavar (Oxandrolone)
* Dianabol (methandrostenealone)
* Halotestin (Fluoxymesterone)
* Maxibolin (Ethylesternol)
* Metandren (methyltestosterone)
* Nilevar (norenthandorolone)
* Nibil (methanalone acetate)
* Nilevar (norenthandorolone)
* Winstrol (Stanozolol)
For more information about steroids, please visit:
Source: STEROIDS AND NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS, Major League Baseball Players Association in Conjunction with Major League Baseball. June 2001. Pages 1-11.
Related Pitching Materials
Want to learn more about baseball nutrition and supplements? Arm yourself with the most innovative and up-to-date baseball pitching training available. These related pitching materials from former Chicago Cubs pitching pro Steven Ellis are guaranteed to help you or the players you coach pitch better and reach the next level faster!