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 "Does Testosterone Build Better Athletes"

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Testosterone Levels in Athletes

With the recent Floyd Landis scandal concerning his high testosterone level the question remains to be answered... does taking testosterone ó a controlled substance whose possession is illegal unless prescribed for medical reasons ó automatically improve athletic performance?

Of course, baseball and it's marquee players are embroiled in a steroid controversy right now... and on the surface it does appear that increasing the male hormone through artificial means can make a difference.

Researchers have demonstrated that testosterone supplements and injections can make male rats more aggressive in marking their territories, cause castrated red deer to grow antlers, and induce female rhesus monkeys to screech like males. In studies on humans, testosterone injections have increased and strengthened muscles.

In sports, testosterone shots or creams are supposed to be magic bullets that spur athletes to train harder, run or bicycle more quickly, jump higher, swim faster, hit a baseball farther, recover sooner, and, letís not forget, increase sex drive and combativeness. But some leading experts who study testosterone are not convinced that supplementing the hormone improves endurance or overall athletic performance. Unlike a hyper-caffeinated sports drink, the synthetic hormone does not provide an instant jolt, but works over time to bulk and fortify muscles.

A long-term buildup of testosterone would produce results, stated a professor at Syracuse University, who has studied how the natural hormones of college athletes fluctuate before and after competitions. But we donít know the short-term effects of using testosterone on an athleteís performance, or whether it even has a short-term effect at all.

Steroids first became popular among American bodybuilders in the 1950ís after they began to suspect that gold-medal-winning Soviet weightlifters were using them, but the American medical establishment did not believe that supplemental testosterone boosters could promote muscle growth until the 1990ís when scientists began examining its effects.

In 1996, Dr. Bhasin, a professor of medicine and chief of endocrinology, diabetes and nutrition at Boston Medical Center, published a study in The New England Journal of Medicine on the impact of testosterone injections, given once a week for 10 weeks, on healthy adult males. The idea was to see whether testosterone might be used therapeutically in muscle-wasting diseases like AIDS. For volunteers who received testosterone, their triceps and quadriceps became larger and they had increased muscle strength during bench presses and squats.

In addition observational studies of humans show that testosterone hormone levels may fluctuate during competitions. A professor of sociology and human development at Penn State, has conducted several studies in which they measured the testosterone in saliva samples taken from a variety of college athletes. The studies found that many male and female athletesí testosterone levels increased before competitions. After the competitions were over, among men, the winnersí testosterone levels tended to rise temporarily while the losersí testosterone tended to drop.

Drew Voight

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