This is what Andrei Agassi just did in his autobiography entitled “Open.” I have never read it and I doubt if I ever will as I am not a big fan of tennis. However, what makes Agassi’s book so controversial is because the title has a double meaning. It is not only about his game or his personal life. It is about his honesty and his admitting to taking the recreational drug crystal meth during his professional years.
About crystal meth
Crystal meth (source: chemistry.about.com) is officially called methamphetamine or metamfetamin. It is usually used in crystalline form, thus the name. So what does crystal meth do? It has some positive and negative effects. On the upside, it can
- change moods and cause elation
- enhance energy and performance
- lead to weight loss
- increase sexual drive
The downsides are
- loss of appetite
- sleeping problems
- mood swings, even psychosis
- potential for overdose
Crystal meth is not the only recreational drug used by athletes. The most common performance-enhancing drugs used by professional athletes are:
Why take drugs?
Agassi is not the first professional athlete to use forbidden drugs nor will he be the last. He joins the likes of star sprinter Marion Jones, cyclist Jan Ulrich and fellow tennis pro Martina Hingis. But the big difference is that the aforementioned athletes got caught; Agassi didn’t. According to his autobiography, he tested positive for drugs but lied before the governing body of ATP and got away with it.
So why do athletes take drugs?
Agassi wrote that he started taking the drug when his career was in crisis. Clearly, drugs can enhance performance. According to this Australian report, here are some of the reasons why athletes take performance-enhancing drugs:
- winning can attract lucrative sponsorship deals and endorsements;
- society places great emphasis on success in sport, which puts more pressure on an athlete to win;
- some banned drugs can speed recovery from injury, which means athletes can be back training and competing more quickly;
- some athletes believe their competitors are using drugs and that to be competitive, they need to take drugs as well;
- some athletes’ desire to win is so great that they are willing to use any means, including cheating, to gain success; and
- some coaches may push drug use to enhance their athletes’ chances of winning, which boosts their profile as a successful coach.
Coming up next: the health effects of performance-enhancing drugs.
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