The Irish Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has launched a baffling new national steroid education campaign that attempts to convince bodybuilders that they will make “zero gains” from using anabolic steroids. The campaign is, appropriately enough, called “Zero Gains”. There has probably never been an anti-steroid education campaign that was more doomed for failure than this one.
Dr. Lorraine Nolan, the chief executive officer for HPRA, not only promised bodybuilders that steroids result in no gains. She also claimed that steroids have “devastating” and “life threatening side effects”. More unbelievably, she probably said it all with a straight face.
“We believe there are no gains from using substances that have been shown to cause a range of physical, psychological and emotional damage when misused,” Nolan said. “The real story is that non-medical use of anabolic steroids can have devastating, long term and life threatening side effects.”
Simon Harris, the Irish Minister of Health, could have have said, “This is a stupid idea because it’s obvious that steroids give massive gains in terms of muscle, strength and performance; so many athletes on steroids are winning gold medals and signing multi-million sports contracts. There is no way this campaign will resonate with the target audience.” But he didn’t. This is what Harris really said:
“The campaign uses phrases, imagery and media that will resonate with the target audience who for the most part will be young and healthy,” Harris said. “We need them to understand, that when everything is taken into account, there are clearly ‘zero gains’ to using anabolic steroids.”
This ill-conceived campaign will most definitely not resonate with the target audience. Most “young and healthy” bodybuilders who use anabolic steroids make impressive gains with negligible adverse side effects (that are typically manageable and reversible). This campaign will fall on deaf ears.
This does not mean that steroids are without side effects. Steroids have well-known and established side effects. The government just can’t expect to exaggerate, overstate, and/or flat-out lie about the dangers of steroids in order to deter steroid use.
The unavoidable fact is that the cost-benefit ratio associated with steroid use, taking into account all of the adverse side effects, is still overwhelming favorable for the majority of steroid users. By no means do they find a cost-benefit ratio of zero gains.
If the government wants to create a truly effective education campaign concerning performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), they must stop creating “anti-steroid” education programs and simply create an evidence-based steroid education program.
Today the HPRA launch the #ZeroGains campaign, highlighting the dangers of using anabolic steroids. Visit the campaign website on https://t.co/LA037Jq0Nw & see further details on our campaign here https://t.co/bh5fzPV8sI @SimonHarrisTD @roinnslainte @sportireland @HSELive pic.twitter.com/IUGj2OMYte
— HPRA (@TheHPRA) October 8, 2018