The slang term “juicing” refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, particularly anabolic steroids and human growth hormone, by athletes and bodybuilders to improve strength and physical abilities. The term originated from the notion that steroids help athletes get “juiced up”, giving them an artificial and unfair advantage over competitors.
Origin and History of the Term “Juicing”
The exact origins of the slang term “juicing” are unclear, but it gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s as the use of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancers became more widespread in sports like baseball, football, and bodybuilding. Some sources suggest it originated from the notion that steroids help athletes get “juiced up”, like squeezing juice from a fruit.
The term appears to have first shown up in print in 1985 when The Pittsburgh Press published an article entitled “Juicing the Basketball Player”, discussing the use of drugs by athletes. Through the late 80s and 90s, “juicing” was increasingly used to imply doping and cheating, especially in baseball as high-profile scandals erupted over steroids in the MLB.
Jose Canseco’s book “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big” published in 2005 brought the term further into the mainstream. Canseco’s book exposed rampant steroid use in Major League Baseball, suggesting a majority of players were “juicing” to gain an edge. Since then, athletes accused of using performance enhancers are often said to be “on the juice”.
Definition and Meaning
As a slang term, “juicing” is generally defined as:
- The use of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) by athletes to improve strength, performance, and physical abilities.
- The practice of taking supplemental hormones like human growth hormone (HGH) to gain muscle mass and athletic advantage.
- Doping or artificially enhancing the body through chemical means rather than training alone.
The term implies gaining an unfair and unsportsmanlike advantage over the competition by using substances banned by athletic commissions and leagues. It suggests athletes are artificially boosting themselves by using drugs that act like steroid-filled hypodermic needles being injected to swell muscles.
Common Steroids and PEDs Used for “Juicing”
While the term can apply to any prohibited performance enhancer, “juicing” typically refers to anabolic steroid use. Some common steroids and supplements used for juicing include:
- Anabolic Steroids – Steroids like testosterone, Dianabol, Winstrol, and Deca Durabolin are used to accelerate muscle growth, strength, and endurance.
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH) – HGH is used by athletes to aid muscle growth and tissue repair, boosting strength and stamina.
- Erythropoietin (EPO) – EPO increases red blood cell production to enhance oxygen circulation for better endurance.
- Clenbuterol – This drug builds muscle while burning fat, used for cutting, bulking, stamina, and weight loss.
Other substances like insulin, diuretics, stimulants may also be used for performance enhancement and considered juicing. Designer steroids are also increasingly used to avoid detection in drug tests.
Reasons Athletes Juice and the Benefits of Steroids
Athletes often juice and use PEDs because they provide significant athletic benefits like:
- Increased muscle mass and accelerated muscle growth
- Improved strength for greater power and speed
- Increased testosterone for dominance and aggression
- Enhanced stamina, endurance, and faster recovery
- Reduced fatigue and ability to train longer and harder
- Improved oxygen circulation for better cardiovascular endurance
- Decreased body fat and leaner, harder physiques
- Heightened pain tolerance to push through injuries
The pressure to perform and win at elite levels drives many athletes to juice as they think doping is their only path to competitive success. The significant improvements steroids offer in building muscle, strength, power, and recovery give juicers huge advantages over those with natural physiques.
Examples of Famous Athletes Caught Juicing
While doping has undoubtedly tainted modern sports, some famous and infamous athletes who got caught juicing include:
- Barry Bonds – Holding the MLB home run record, he was accused of steroid use in the BALCO scandal.
- Mark McGwire – Set a new MLB home run record while allegedly using Androstenedione.
- Alex Rodriguez – The Yankees superstar admitted to using PEDs during his MLB career.
- Marion Jones – Stripped of her Olympic golds after confessing to extensive steroid use.
- Ben Johnson – The Canadian sprinter lost his 1988 Olympic gold for doping.
- Lance Armstrong – Won seven tainted Tour de France titles while doping throughout his cycling career.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger – Openly discussed his extensive steroid use as a champion bodybuilder.
While most juicers will never admit it, it is estimated a significant percentage of top athletes in many sports use banned substances despite the risks.
Slang Terms for Steroid Users
Beyond just “juicers”, steroid users are known by many nicknames and slang terms including:
- Juice heads
- Gym candy users
- Weightlifting junkies
- Geared-up athletes
- Chemically enhanced lifters
- Pharmaceutically gifted
- Tour de Pharmacology cyclists
These terms play off the notion of athletes being hooked on steroids and dependent on drugs for their accomplishments rather than natural skill.
Risks and Side Effects of Juicing
Despite the athletic benefits, juicing and PED use can cause many adverse health effects like:
- Testicular atrophy and infertility
- Gynecomastia (male breast enlargement)
- Acne and cysts
- Liquid retention and edema
- High blood pressure and cholesterol
- Kidney and liver damage
- Heart disease, stroke and thromboses
- Rage, aggression, mood swings
- Depression upon stopping steroids
The rampant use of steroids has also been linked to premature deaths of athletes and bodybuilders.
Legal Status of Steroids
Despite their medical uses, anabolic steroids are classified as Schedule III controlled substances in the United States. This means:
- Possession or sale of steroids without a valid prescription is illegal
- Trafficking steroids can result in fines up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison
- Possession alone can lead to 1 year in prison and a minimum $1,000 fine
- Athletes caught doping may face bans from competition of 1 to 4 years or lifetime
Still, law enforcement tends to focus more on distributors over personal use. And penalties are more severe if steroids are sold to minors.
Steroid Use in Professional Sports and Scandals
While banned by all major sports governing bodies, evidence suggests steroid use remains widespread in many professional leagues:
- MLB – Associated with the 1990s home run era tainted by steroid scandals like BALCO and Biogenesis.
- Olympics – Over 30 Olympic medalist have lost medals for doping like Ben Johnson and Marion Jones.
- NFL – Steroid use is suspected to be extensive to sustain power and recovery.
- UFC – MMA has had many high-profile failures for steroids and testosterone use.
- Cycling – Doping and Tour de France titles have gone hand-in-hand for decades.
- WWE – Rampant steroid abuse in the 1980s led to federal charges against Vince McMahon.
Strict testing today has led to innovations in doping techniques, including the use of fast-clearing designer steroids to avoid detection and blood transfusions for endurance sports.
Famous Cases of Athletes Allegedly Juicing
Speculation around athletes juicing despite never failing a drug test includes:
- Serena Williams – Her extreme strength and physique fueled rumors of steroid use.
- Floyd Mayweather Jr. – Multiple boxers accused him of abusing IV fluids for rehydration between weigh-ins and fights.
- Peyton Manning – A 2011 Al Jazeera undercover probe linked Manning’s wife to HGH shipments in 2011 during his rehabilitation.
- Kobe Bryant – Used “controversial” experimental blood spinning procedures for injury recovery.
- Roger Clemens – Despite denial under oath, allegations persisted of his steroid use in MLB.
Circumstantial evidence and whistleblowers have implicated countless athletes, but most avoid definitive proof thanks to sophisticated doping programs.
How Widespread is Steroid Use in Professional Sports?
Estimates on the prevalence of PED use in pro sports suggest:
- As much as 39% of MLB players used steroids in the late 1990s and early 2000s
- Up to 35% of NFL players have used banned substances like HGH
- Over 50% of top bodybuilders use steroids to maintain unnaturally large physiques
- Use of EPO and blood doping could be widespread in endurance sports like cycling and running
- Doping is likely common in the Olympics, where over 160 athletes failed drug tests in 2008 alone
Strict testing today has curbed blatant abuse, but many experts believe doping remains widespread beneath the surface in sports where size, strength, power and recovery determine success.
Arguments for and Against Allowing Steroid Use
There are good-faith arguments on both sides of the debate whether performance enhancers should be allowed:
- Arguments Against – Health risks, maintaining fairness, honor in competition without drugs.
- Arguments For – Freedom of choice, difficulty enforcing bans, allows spectacular performances.
Those against doping emphasize the medical harm and that sports must be based on natural talent, hard work and ethics – not chemistry. However, some advocate for legal but regulated steroid use given enforcement challenges and demand to see extreme performances enhanced through any means available.
Will Future Professional Sports Embrace Doping?
Some argue that sports may gradually accept doping as advanced biotechnology makes enhancements increasingly effective and harder to detect. Reasons sports may turn to “regulated” doping include:
- Ever-evolving techniques like gene editing continue pushing human limits
- Testing technology struggles to keep pace with new innovations in doping
- Fans desire to see athletes with superhuman abilities and spectacular performances
- Athletes will do anything to gain an edge regardless of bans and enforcement
Rather than fruitlessly fighting progress, critics believe sports should embrace enhancement under medical supervision for fairness and safety. Such regulated doping could evolve sports into a battle of technology and innovation rather than just natural physiques.
In many ways, the slang term “juicing” encapsulates the ongoing tension around doping in professional sports. While offering significant athletic benefits, the use of anabolic steroids and other PEDs to gain advantage raises both moral and medical concerns. Despite strict bans, evidence suggests that juicing remains widespread across many sports as some athletes will do anything to win. Whether sports should accept doping as inevitable or continue fighting to preserve ethics and “natural” competition remains a heated debate. Ultimately, the use of banned substances to artificially enhance performance seems destined to be a part of professional athletics for the foreseeable future.