T/E Ratios and Steroids: The Gray Area of Athletics
A funny thing happened on the way to the Penn State Fayette colloquium. I happened to come early that very afternoon to the auditorium and, in accordance to social custom, found myself in idle chat with a colleague. I casually asked this unnamed colleague of mine who exactly would be speaking today.
“I think it’s Frank.”
“Frank, who ?’
I knew Frank Georgiana , or so I thought. He was a staff member of the campus library.
Anytime I needed any assistance, he was the guy to ask; he was exceptionally pleasant and
knowledgeable about any questions or issues ( and I certainly did have my very fair share) related to the library or its operations thereof.
However, to be sure, I certainly did not associate Frank with any serious intellectual projects, not of the kind that would make for a one-hour faculty colloquium.
Well, Frank’s waters certainly run quite deep.
The colloquium came, and the colloquium went, and I never looked at Frank the same again. This very modest person rose immeasurably in stature.
Frank displayed passion and awareness and insightfulness and humanity. He spoke eloquently about a topic on which he was extremely educated on many levels. He spoke about science, he spoke about people, he spoke about his life. He addressed a topic which is sometimes addressed, but never addressed enough. It is a painful topic, as it can cause pain on both a personal and a physical level, but it is a source of pain on a societal level, as well.
The topic is the use/abuse of performance enhancing drugs (PEDS), notably, anabolic-androgenic steroids.
Frank’s passion and awareness have found expression in his recent book, “T/E Ratios and Steroids: The Gray Areas of Athletics.” It is an honest book, written from both sides of the brain, and definitely both sides of the author’s heart. It discusses the agony emanating from irresponsible usage of PEDS, and the possible solutions , short term/long term, or the relative absence thereof. It is a book that discusses (and to be honest, perhaps even preaches) about an exigent threat that can potentially metastasize into social malignancy that could erode the roots of sportsmanship, and beyond, the operative word being, “beyond.”
I am reminded of an anecdote that was in circulation quite few years ago. A physician
approached a number of athletes with the hypothetical question, whether they would take a pill that would guarantee them Olympic status, but would inevitably kill them in a short while. The result was unpredictably shocking. More than half of the athletes surveyed answered in the affirmative.
That in a nutshell is the significance of this book, to expose the naïve reader to this bizarre sub-culture and the very mentality that spawns such this pathology.
One need not be a sports enthusiast to appreciate the fact that sports today are not entirely free of anabolic steroids and other PEDS. The constant revelation of another and yet another (and yet another…) athlete who has been tainted with these steroids destroys the very ideal of sportsmanship that all of us, including non-enthusiasts like myself, hold very dear. We refer to the quintessential America as, “baseball and apple pie.” Well, they’ve got into our baseball, as well as a few other sports;
Let’s be sure that they don’t get into our apple pie.
We’re living in the world of around-the-clock news, which translates into hearing the foibles of our sports heroes throughout the day and throughout the night .Indeed, know we all know too well , the perils associated with the blind adoration of these mortals. Perceived excellence in the field does not equate to perceived excellence outside the field as some of our heroes are gone; their heroics felled by a vial of God-knows- what , which was ingested or injected or God-knows-what.
But, there is a greater issue. And that issue is no other than genuineness, or the lack thereof. We are living in a reality that is conveniently dubbed as “virtual”, which by definition stands in opposition to
what previous generations know as “real.” Shouldn’t sports be the last refuge of what is really real ?
I have been in the college teaching business for over two decades, and I have seen young students come, as well as seen young students go…to make it on their own in, and please excuse the cliché, an extremely uncertain world . Do we not owe these aspiring young minds (ditto for the cliché) a reassurance that they indeed can, and should, make it on their REAL merits, and not on the mental or personal equivalent of exogenously administered ergogenic agents ? Do they not deserve the reassurance that the height of the proverbial bar will not be compromised due to the moral imperfections of others ? If these PEDS serve as a metaphor for illusory accomplishments, then it certainly behooves us, all of us, to educate the upcoming generations and to guide them accordingly.
For the aspiring amoral athlete, PEDS indeed have great potential. However, the question is, “At what price, athletic salvation ?” To be sure, the price can indeed be quite steep. For the male athlete, the price tag includes such effects as liver damage, mental problems, baldness, infertility, and, as Frank graphically demonstrates, gynecomastia, which is none other than permanent breast development in males ( probably not quite the part of the body that prospective body-builders had in mind). The photos exhibited in the book visually reinforce a few of the nasty side effects. To get the full dose of fright, please refer yourself to chapter 11.
These PEDS come in a variety of forms, not all of which are anabolic-androgenic. And their effects go well beyond the purview of body building. For example, there are relaxants such as alcohol, there are weight reducing agents such as diuretics, there are stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine, there are drugs to reduce pain, and, of course, there are pharmacological agents intended to attempt to mask the usage of all or any of the above.
These drugs are here, and, as discussed in the last chapter of the book, have been here, and shall be here. What is needed, Frank argues, is legislation. But not of the type that he calls, “political grandstanding.” Meaningful legislation, he argues on page 144 would be directed towards educating the future generation of athletes and coaches, “I firmly believe legislation should be passed in all states that provide performance-enhancing drug education to be taught in the school for all students. The schools teach our children about sex education and condom use. They should provide drug classes too to further educate our youth about the dangers of anabolic-androgenic steroids and other substances.”
As an educator who has spent more than 20 years attempting to impart to my students, not just the facts of biological science, but more so, the very meaning of this science and its potential towards enhancing one’s health, my response to Frank’s above suggestion, is short and simple, “Amen.”
Science must proceed, with a scientifically oriented open mind, to gain a better understanding of these ergogenic agents, for both better and for worse. And as the knowledge accrues, so should societal obligations to educate the public, especially those at high risk of using/abusing these ergogenic aids, about the short and long term effects of these drugs.
It is certainly considered extremely boorish to divulge the surprise ending of a good thriller. Frank’s book is a good thriller, as it certainly kept me in suspense as to what performance enhancing drugs are all about. But, it also has a surprise twist. And while I most definitely do not condone boorish behavior certainly not in myself, I shall, nevertheless, give away the ending…agree with it or not, it’s an interesting one.
Please allow me to quote from page 145, “ T/E ratios and steroids will forever be a major part of athletics, but a gray one indeed. I cannot endorse or condone the illegal use or legal use of steroids in athletes. But, who am I to say to adults with requisite intelligence what they should do especially when their livelihood is dependent upon it. “
There you have it. An author who puts his heart and soul into the exposition of an issue to the tune of 170 pages of a self-published book, only to later admit that he is believes in tolerance and non-Judgmentality among the users/abusers of these PEDS.
What do we call a person like this ?
Courageous, mature, intelligent, for starters.
You see, there is truth is the proverb “ A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Put in other words, a mature mind does not seek or embrace absolute certainty or consistency, as said mind understands that our world is built up of complex hues of gray. A mature mind does not create a preformed agenda, but envisions each issue as a complex holoentity. And while the condemnation of those individuals who have availed themselves of these PEDS might be a logical outcome of this book, it certainly is not the only outcome.
My own views notwithstanding, I laud Frank for his depth of thought.
Thank you, Frank, for educating us.
Joshua Marvit, Ph.D.
Instructor of Biology
Penn State University
The second book review.
“T/E Ratios and Steroids: The Gray Areas of Athletics,” (T/E Ratios) authored by Frank Daniel Georgiana, Jr., gives the reader exactly what the title states. Until now, the wide ranging effects of steroid use in America and in the international community has not been fully disclosed nor described.
T/E Ratios provides the reader with a panoramic view of the entire world of steroids from its molecular structure, synthesis in the body, use by non-professional and professional athletes alike-and its alarming statistics, and its many devastating side effects. Mr. Georgiana doesn’t stop there, but also describes the use of steroids in the cattle industry-making one wonder what one really eats and ponder the disturbing realization of how the obvious effects of steroid use in non-human animals might mimic steroid effects in humans. Moreover, Mr. Georgiana gives the reader a short-course on the complex world of how sports governing bodies evaluate athletes for steroids use and even how athletes can continually beat the evolving system undetected.
The author’s unique voice draws upon his own personal antidotes of body building and family history, helping to link together the nineteen chapters of the book, and in the end create a work that is distinctly different than any previously published book on the topic of steroids.
Finally, T/E Ratios provides a significant amount of new data never before published and painstakingly gathered by lengthy interviews over the course of several years from medical doctors, all levels of athletes, oversight committees, and even families that have experienced personal tragedies due to steroid use.
It’s a fast, fascinating read that I highly recommend, that is, if you really want to understand the world of T/E ratios and steroids.
Dr. Joseph M. Shostell
Associate Professor of Biology
Penn State University