A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS WHO PLAY SPORTS AND PERFORM: You have natural dopamine and skill development, you do not need performance enhancing drugs.
As fall sports practice in schools and colleges will soon begin, this is a learning opportunity for children and teens who play sports or perform at school. In the video below, hosted by the Oxford Union Society, "The Truth About Doping in Cycling", Tyler Hamilton discusses doping, the use of performance-enhancing drugs (or PEDs) in professional competition.
Photo credit: CDC & Pro Consumer Safety
I have competed myself, not professionally, but in high school and some in college. I learned how to built my own skills. Emotionally and physically I had enough natural dopamine to challenge myself and not by comparing myself to others or worrying that I needed to be at the top, because I already was. In tennis for example I was at the top of my school and in college I had a full scholarship offered (although I declined because I wanted to focus on my studies and I was fortunate to have had that opportunity). Even in other sports, in water skiing another example, again I could out-slalom and the top of my team. It was amazing. But it was about me, not about others and no need for pressure, and no PED's. It was what I wanted and I learned the skills I needed. I eventually learned how to condition myself and learned many other outdoor physical activities and again without the use of PED's. If I could not do it, its likely it was not for me and I would choose something else. It's a choice to play or perform, if you cannot handle it, choose something else, you will find your passion or skill, but never give in to cheating by doping. If you cheat, it's not the real you and it will come back to haunt you in many ways. Generally those who do cheat have other mental health and interpersonal issues in their life. It's not about the sport, competition or drugs, its their untreated mental health and interpersonal issues that influence their poor choice to cheat. When I hear of professionals who have used PED's, "idiots", this is sad, because they are role models to children, teens and adults. For those I have no sympathy for them. From how difficult it was, blah, blah, blah. I guess time will tell. I do not wish this on anyone, but for those who have cheated with PED's are at significant health risks including, but not limited to stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, cancers, to emotional, psychological and even social effects. It's not worth it.
Teens can be at particular risk of making a choice to use PED's, due to their stage of brain development. In brief, with the reduction of dopamine (feel good neurotransmitter) and serotonin (brings one down to homeostasis) to making decisions with the limbic system (emotional center of the brain), because their prefrontal cortex (responsible for executive functioning, decision making, understanding future consequences, etc.) is not fully developed until mid to late 20's. These neurodevelopmental factors can significantly influence the teen to try PED's, especially with peer and parent pressure, and someone says, they are natural, it will make you feel better, it's not a drug, it's okay. Parents need to remind teens that as a competitor or otherwise, if someone ever gives you anything to help you feel better, perform better, IMMEDIATELY, step away from the situation, don't take it and talk to another adult at your school or college, parents or professional. This helps give the teen time to assess if this is something they need so they can make the best choice. It is helpful for parents and teens to understand the risk of feeling the need to use PED's. Understand, that while it might help make you perform better and make you feel like you are on top of the world, you will end up at the bottom, physically, emotionally and psychologically and even socially, even if you do not get caught. It will catch up to you. Don't use PED's, some natural or not, don't dope, don't cheat. You have too much to loose and you truly do not need them. Compare and challenge yourself to only "you". Parents and teens need to also understand that performance enhancers are not sport specific, that teens can also be influenced by academic and testing pressures as well. See "Smart Drugs", again putting teens at significant neurodevelopmental risk.
For more information on substances and effects of performance-enhancing drugs (PED's), visit the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).