NOVEMBER 26, 2007
Steroids are one of those strange elements in a person’s public life that have the ability to impact how virtually everyone perceives them. Oddly, it doesn’t actually matter whether you take them or not. Here’s what I mean:
In the case of a guy like Barry Bonds, the fact that he’s taken steroids overshadows the fact that he’s broken two MLB homerun records. In the case of Lance Armstrong, the fact that he hasn’t taken them (though has been suspected of it) has overshadowed his 7 Tour de France wins.
Further complicating the matter is the fact that your death can overshadow your entire life, especially if steroids (or other drugs) are involved…I don’t know much about Lyle Alzado other than the fact that he used steroids and (wrongly) thought them to be the cause of his cancer. I can’t ever remember seeing him on a highlight film…and I suspect that is because the NFL is pretty embarrassed about him in general. His death far overshadowed his life in many respects, as most people don’t associate Alzado with his on field accomplishments, but rather with his off-field battle with cancer. In this way, and in the fact that he had used steroids (and pain-killers, and anti-depressants), he shares many similarities with the recently deceased Chris Benoit.
Chris Benoit was a very popular wrestler employed by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), who eventually ended up killing his wife and child, then committing suicide. More specifically, he strangled his wife to death, then suffocated his son, after which he hung himself using the chord on a portable weight-training machine.
Chris Benoit’s story was media frenzy for about two weeks and then was largely forgotten. The WWE has even removed most mentions of him from their official website.
But as the superficial details revealed themselves, it appeared that Benoit suffered from a textbook case of “roid rage”. In fact, this is almost verbatim what the mainstream media reported. I find this to be remarkable, since the media uses the term as if it’s an established psychological condition caused by steroids; while in truth, the medical data actually states explicitly that:
"Supraphysiological doses of testosterone, when administered to normal men in a controlled setting, do not increase angry behavior."
Remember, we’re talking about behavior here, not feelings. Behavior is something you actually do; “feelings” is a song by Gemini. One is an action, the other is not. Behavior is a choice.
Let me also add at this point that I’m highly skeptical of doctors who have very little experience with anabolic steroids being quoted by the general media and using slang instead of medical terminology. “Roid Rage” is not a medical term. Roid Rage is gym-jargon. In fact, “Roid Rage” is usually put in quotes whenever it’s mentioned in medical studies, because it’s not listed as a legitimate term or side effect in any medical textbook. However, it’s a catchy sounding word…and doctors who are on television or quoted in the media are quick to use it – even in the absence of legitimate evidence that it exists as such.
I’ll go so far as to go on record as saying that while anabolic steroids may amplify aggressive feelings; they certainly do not “cause” behavioral changes in humans. Perhaps in rodents or in animals of lower orders they can contribute to overly aggressive actions…but we’re talking about humans here, and “Roid Rage” is simply a popular term to throw around when you’re a doctor looking to get on television.
But certainly when someone is receiving a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids every four weeks – as Benoit was – we can safely conclude that there must have been some kind of psychological side effects, can’t we?
Yes, we can.
Elevating your body’s hormones to ten times their natural level can cause psychological side effects. You can certainly feel more aggressive…but typically, the most commonly cited side effect (psychologically speaking) from anabolic steroids is an increased sense of well being. Murderous side effects are not caused by anabolic steroids…steroids will not cause the severe psychological damage that was shown by Benoit’s actions. In fact, I even doubt that the painkillers and anti-depressants were the cause.
Frankly, the cause(s) behind this tragic event were likely not pharmacological at all.
I can say this with a high degree of certainty because I’ve read the report issued by the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI), an organization that focuses it’s resources on researching and publishing information on concussions suffered by athletes in various sports. When doctors from SLI examined Chris Benoit’s brain they found that it resembled the brain of an 85 year-old Alzheimer’s patient. It had suffered so much trauma and had so much dead tissue that normal function was not a possibility- while dangerous personality, behavior, and temperament changes were more than probable.
Let’s put things in simpler terms: Do you believe getting hit in the head thousands of times will harm you more or less than taking anabolic steroids? If you said more, then you’d be correct.
During his time as a professional wrestler with the WWE, Benoit had subjected his body to head trauma hundreds of times, most notably with a signature move coined the “Flying Head Butt” as well as dozens of other highly flashy (and dangerous) moves
The testosterone he’d been injecting was likely the only thing keeping his brain functioning at all, as testosterone is known to be both a cognitive enhancer as well as a neurological-protectant. And yes, that’s my professional opinion…that anabolic steroids were not a causative factor in the murder/suicide committed by Chris Benoit, but rather that they were the only thing that staved it off for all of those years as a professional wrestler.