His resting heart rate was 35 bpm. Maximal Oxygen consumption was twice that of other athletes.
There are always, periodically, flurries of commentary in the media about a high profile athlete found to have used performance enhancing drugs. About five years ago, it was Lance Armstrong, the American cyclist who won seven Tour de France. Reexamination
of decade old, frozen body fluid samples yielded evidence of the drug EPO, used to raise the hemoglobin level and so enhance oxygen delivery. An inquiry, which would do justice to the Nuremberg Trials, was launched and various members of Mr. Armstrong's
teams have testified that they saw, or used themselves, performance enhancing substances.
So, as usual, came the hail of stones, falling on Mr. Armstrong. Cheater! Disgrace! Shame! So the cry from the bleacher seats. Every commentator, smug, holy,
sure of their correctness, piled on the stones, as if to bury Mr. Armstrong. There was like a riot. There was a furious tone to the written and verbal assault.
Mr. Armstrong's Tour de France titles were taken away. His sponsors are gone. He was
barred from further competition. People say he should "disappear", hide, speak not another word.
So who became the winner of the Tour, those years, 1999-2005, now that Mr. Armstrong has been deleted? Answer, nobody. Why is this? All the riders finishing
second, third, fourth, have, were or since been identified as users of banned substances.
If you are a champion, if you come to the Final, if you are on the podium, if you set records, you are going to be tested. Many, many times. The blood police
knock on your door at 0400. They try to surprise you at a training site in the Pyrenees. If the tests are negative, many still speculate that you must be using something. If you are eliminated in the first heats, finish 125th in the General classification,
bat .235 in AA, you will seldom, if ever, be tested. Nobody cares. Nobody is envious.
There is like a war between athletes seeking advantage, however small, and governing authorities trying to catch them. The pharmaceutical companies play both sides.
They sell lots of drugs to suppliers, legal and illegal. They make better and better drugs. They develop masking drugs. Laboratories devise better and better tests. There is a massive "black market". Millions of Americans use these drugs. Rarely is there a
clear medical necessity. Reasons are most often "anti-aging" "quality of life".
I do a search for athletes suspended for using these drugs. I find a list. Hundreds and hundreds. Every country. Many different sports.
I find accounts of the investigation
of, inquiry into, prosecution of many prominent athletes. In some instances the story is going to the bizarre, surreal, preposterous. Like the saga of the pursuit of one Barry Bonds. Grand Jury? Testimony from his ex-girl friend! Jail time for his therapist?
Roger Clemens got off. Many others are not so lucky. Jose Conseco goes to jail. For others it is finish of a career. Nobody seems to remember Ben Johnson in a good light. 9.79! Four of those finishing behind him are later caught. Beautiful
and talented Marion Jones was harrassed, pressured, brought before Grand Juries, finally put in the jail. Her Olympic medals taken away.
I read about the years of prohibition. This was big success? The "War on Drugs", declared by America, is going
well? These ideas went/are going well for criminals and gangsters. How many innocents killed? How many enforcement people killed? How many millions[billions] spent for no gain?
The use of performance enhancing
drugs will never be stopped. I say to the authorities: Give it up.
Give Ben Johnson back his medal. Have
a celebration for him.
Excuse, Pardon, Sorry to everybody. Give back Marion's medals. Sorry to Jose.
Congratulations to Barry Bonds on a great career. Have a day for him. Put him in the baseball Hall of Fame, where he clearly belongs. Stop bothering him and is trainer.
If Nike were to say, "We are proud
to have Lance Armstrong endorse our products", I will buy their stuff forever.
Stop testing anyone. Athlete's choice. Personal choice. Let them decide what and how to use. Level the playing field.
Let every cyclist begin the tour with a hematocrit of 55. You can get this by living at high altitude. Use the oxygen deprivation tent or room to simulate altitude. Or take the EPO. Let every cyclist who has a bad day try a boost of testosterone.
of using science to improve or avoid detection, Let's use science to study what medication will actually provide an advantage, and if so, what margin? Let's get some data on dose and timing. Lets expand the scientific literature which examines the gains in
performance of reproducible tasks resulting from the display of specific agents.
Most importantly lets educate. Educate the young. What are the risks? What benefit, if any, can be expected? Do the math on the cost. Is there an acceptable reason for
taking these drugs? At what age are they contraindicated? This teaching should be part of a high school curriculum.
Lance Armstrong was a gifted athlete. His musculature had an inherited capacity to consume oxygen which was higher than most. This was
then pushed to new heights by a training program with an intensity second to none. There was a dedication, a discipline, brought to the table which was unmatched. He sustained this for many years. No detail was overlooked. Diet was a science. His equipment,
state of the art. Many sacrifices were made.
Every year, 1999-2005, he came to this event, considered to be the most severe, gruelling of physical tests in all sport. For seven years, he won. Did he make sure his hematocrit was optimized? Did he make
sure his testosterone levels were on a par with others? I am sure he did. It did not appear to have been too difficult to avoid detection. Mostly a matter of timing. His fellow competitors likewise. Many of them were eventually caught.
You think anabolic
steroids will make an "average" athlete a great one? Come again. Take a major league baseball player with a batting average of .250, 7 home runs last year, 20 stolen bases and only 14 errors, and muscle him up with testosterone and a weight training program..
The result? Batting average .215, 12 home runs, 2 stolen bases and 35 errors.
I watch some video of Barry Bonds. At the plate, his stance seems to radiate power. The head is motionless, the eye seems to slow the pitch ,see the spin; he does not
swing at pitches outside the strike zone. He takes a walk 232 times in 2002 . Then comes the swing; The motion begins at the feet, the weight shifting, the step forward, shoulders turning, the arms follow, then the, finally, the wrists and hands bring the
bat through, at a speed never before; a study in grace and fluid power. No drugs can make a Barry Bonds.
I like the idea of personal choice. I don't want to hurt anyone. If I were to try some Winstrol for my bodybuilding, that would be my choice.
It is my body. This will not hurt anyone else.
I don't like rules and laws made by non-participants, trying to limit the choices of those who are on the field of play. Sport is a career choice for many. At the highest levels, the difference between
success and failure is slim.
For those who succeed, the rewards can be considerable. Failure is a very bad outcome for many. The chips are down.
From your couch, from your office, boardroom, court, you should make rules, laws, and try to enforce
For the most part, using anabolics is not banned in bodybuilding. So I don't want to be in a sequence of an illegal , undercover process. I should not have to be. I would like to be able to go to a physician, knowledgable in this area and obtain
a legal prescription. I would like to have proper monitoring. I would like to be assured that the product is high quality. Nobody, including the doctor, should be penalized.
If you take HGH, anabolic steroids or EPO during your athletic career, gain
some advantage, carefully control dosing, have regular blood work, suffer no side effects, I say, that was your choice.
August 2016: After I wrote this I listened to an endless stream of preaching from the Holier about the cheaters and how they
needed to be erased from the face of the earth. I still have no doubt about what I wrote, and don't plan to change a word.
Then I found some company in high places.
Lewis Kurlantzick, LLB, Zephaniah Swift Professor of Law at the University of
Connecticut School of Law, wrote in his Apr. 12, 2006 article titled "Is There a Steroids Problem? The Problematic Character of the Case for Regulation," published in the New England Law Review:
"Athletes are in a position to make a decision about what behavior is in their best interest, to weigh the risks and benefits according to their own values. And a paternalistic rule that attempts to prevent the athlete from harming himself runs counter to
the important values of independence and personal choice. Moreover, it is likely that the feared harm is neither life-threatening nor irreversible. Presumably, under this health rationale, if performance is enhanced by substances that cause neither short-term
nor long-term harm to the athlete, these substances should not be banned."
Norman Fost, MD, MPH, Professor and Director of the Medical Ethics Program at the University of Wisconsin, made the following statement in a Dec. 18, 2006 interview published
by Scout.com (a Fox Sports News website) titled "Baseball Men - The Skeptic":
"We allow people to do far more dangerous things than play football or baseball while using steroids. We allow people
to bungee-jump, to ski on advanced slopes, to cliff dive. To eat marbled meat or ice cream pie every day if they want. I don't think we want to go down a path in which we restrict and even criminalize behaviors just because they have health risks. And steroids
are so low on the list of drugs or diets that cause serious harm I don't understand why we would start there."
Lincoln Allison, DLitt, Founding Director of Warwick University's Centre for the Study of Sport in Society, wrote the following in
an Aug. 9, 2004 article titled "Faster, Stronger, Higher," published in the Guardian:
"A sportsman or woman who seeks an advantage from drugs just moves up to the level
appropriate to his or her underlying ability...
There are no drugs to enhance the human characteristics of judgment
and leadership. If there were, would we not want the prime minister to take them? And if there were drugs for hand-eye coordination, would we not pay more to see a performer who had taken them than one who had not?...
In general, the risk to health from performance-enhancing drugs is considerably less than that from tobacco or alcohol, and we ought not to apply
paternalistic moral assumptions to sport that we are not prepared to apply to the rest of life."