Why do people decide to take steroids?
There are themes across all IPED users’ motivations which should be explored.
Often, men and women will have different motivations for using IPEDs, reflected in their respective choice of substances; Methandrostenolone being most popular amongst men, and Oxandrolone in women.
Most people turn to the internet as their primary source of information on any subject, including advice on fitness and nutrition. Here there is a risk of unverified, pseudo-science, and so called ‘bro-science’ (a term for misinformation circulated, usually body-building claims not backed by science and based on anecdote) being accepted as good practice and going unchallenged.
Win at all costs
The drive to ‘win at all costs’ is recognised in sport as a mentality within a team or individual where the values, rules or laws are abandoned, and the single act of winning is all-important.
UKAD’s values-based education programme (100% me) emphasises the values of fair play and the spirit of competition. UKAD supports clean athletes who uphold these values.
The temptations of a ‘win at all costs’ mentality are not limited to specific sports and can be driven by the perceived acquisition of wealth, status, power and influence. These motivations are present at all levels of sport, and the huge financial rewards at the top of elite sport should not be ignored as a contributing factor to IPED use.
The influence of exposure to unrealistic body images has been around for generations. These images of ‘idealised’ body types have long been present in advertising and media on billboards, on TV and film, or in magazines. However, advancement of mobile technology has exponentially increased the presence of this influence in daily life.
The constant exposure to specific body types can distort the public perception of what is normal and acceptable, leading to societal pressure to look a certain way - particularly for young people who are vulnerable to peer pressure and expectations. Research into social media and body image is still in its early stages however social media use, especially image-based sites, appears to connect users with increased body image concerns.
It is important to consider IPED use as both: a consequence of mental health pressure, and as a possible contributor to exacerbating symptoms, and how this can lead to a vicious cycle of use. For example, in some circumstances, the motivation to take IPEDs can be based on a drive to improve certain aspects of appearance, which can then in turn lead to negative side effects (such as acne or “man-boobs”) which cause the user to take more IPEDs in a bid to find a solution to the new issue. In many cases, image and mental health/wellbeing are very closely linked.
The role of social media influencers should also be considered. Influencers who appear on these sites can be powerful in affecting behaviour or personal moral; many demonstrate the perceived benefits of IPED or supplement use, without articulating the significant risks, and are financially incentivised to do so. Recent research suggests that “fitspiration” images, images of influencers taking part in exercise or showing off their bodies, can result in lower self-compassion.
Image-based sharing sites such as Instagram or Snapchat are popular among young people. Filters featured on these sites, which are added to images, also add further distortion and greater ambiguity to what is real.
UKAD believes that this further enables the perpetuation of pseudo-science and normalisation of the use of supplements and IPEDs. The growing presence of nutritional supplements and IPEDs in high-street and online stores, alongside healthcare products and food, should also be recognised as a factor in their increased popularity.
In 2019, two Sheffield based scientists drew attention to the apparent contradiction in IPED use to improve looks. Named after the scientists, the Mossman-Pacey Paradox, describes how in an effort to improve their attractiveness, IPED users actually damage their fertility.