In this vid I propose a controversial approach to ending performance enhancing drug (PED) testing once and for all.

13 Comments
  1. Richard Schuller 5 years ago

    Your points are well taken if we are looking at professional sports. If we are thinking about amateur sports where people pay their own expenses to participate, then the issue of competitive advantage needs to be addressed.
    I have been a drug free powerlifter for the past 25 years. Based on comparing drug users and drug free lifters, it appears that PED’s can give a competitor about a 10% advantage. This is not a scientifically based study, only an inference based on comparing performance of athletes who used PED’s and then stopped using. It is also well known that PED’s allow a lifter to develop more muscle mass than they would without the drugs.
    There is also the issue of teen age athletes taking PED’s to gain some competitive edge. There are a lot of issues here, all of which need careful examination. I’ll just list a few:
    1. The athletes who can afford to pay for good PED’s, will have a consistent advantage over athletes who cannot afford drugs. HGH comes to mind here. The disparity in performance between “rich” high schools (good facilities, coaches and programs) and “poor” high schools is already evident in sports like football. Not so much in basketball.
    2. The general rule of thumb for effectively using PED’s has been to get every last ounce of performance out of your drug free training BEFORE starting to use assistance. For most people, this means about six to eight years of training. Teen age athletes are unlikely to follow this because they want results “now”! It is a fact of life that young men develop physically at very different rates. Some will be “big and strong” at 16 and others will lift weights like mad and still have toothpick bodies at the same age.
    3. The relative advantage of being able to “afford” good PED’s has a strong potential to distort what it means to “win” in competition. For example, in powerlifting the support equipment has gotten so sophisticated that the competitors who “win” equipped bench press competitions are the one’s who could spend the most on equipment. In tennis, high performance rackets have a major advantage over lesser products.
    My view is that it is probably useful to try to contain drug use in amateur sports. For the vast majority of us who will never make a cent playing our sport, we should have some assurance that we are walking onto a “level playing field”

    • Author
      Will Brink 5 years ago

      “Your points are well taken if we are looking at professional sports. If we are thinking about amateur sports where people pay their own expenses to participate, then the issue of competitive advantage needs to be addressed.”
      That is assuming amateurs don’t buy and use PEDs with their own money. They do. PED use may be higher or lower depending on the sport, but in many amateur sports very common. PED use in amateur PL, body building, and others the norm. College level ball, etc, very common.
      “I have been a drug free powerlifter for the past 25 years. Based on comparing drug users and drug free lifters, it appears that PED’s can give a competitor about a 10% advantage. This is not a scientifically based study, only an inference based on comparing performance of athletes who used PED’s and then stopped using. It is also well known that PED’s allow a lifter to develop more muscle mass than they would without the drugs.”
      An interesting article was just published examining the PL records for tested and non tested feds you may find interesting. See:
      http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-powerlifting-tells-us-about-the-effects-of-peds/
      “There is also the issue of teen age athletes taking PED’s to gain some competitive edge. There are a lot of issues here, all of which need careful examination. I’ll just list a few:
      1. The athletes who can afford to pay for good PED’s, will have a consistent advantage over athletes who cannot afford drugs. HGH comes to mind here. The disparity in performance between “rich” high schools (good facilities, coaches and programs) and “poor” high schools is already evident in sports like football. Not so much in basketball.”
      I don’t disagree with any of that, but it’s a different issue to my main point. Few to no high school athletes use legit HGH. Two, there’s no legit test for HGH, although the IOC claims they now have one. Most high school sports don’t test for PEDs anyway. I do discuss the issue of of (supposed) use of HGH by high school level athletes here:
      http://www.brinkzone.com/bodybuilding/are-teens-using-more-hgh/
      “2. The general rule of thumb for effectively using PED’s has been to get every last ounce of performance out of your drug free training BEFORE starting to use assistance. For most people, this means about six to eight years of training. Teen age athletes are unlikely to follow this because they want results “now”! It is a fact of life that young men develop physically at very different rates. Some will be “big and strong” at 16 and others will lift weights like mad and still have toothpick bodies at the same age.”
      I agree, but I’m failing to see how that applies to my ideas presented in the vid. None of that would change per my idea.
      “3. The relative advantage of being able to “afford” good PED’s has a strong potential to distort what it means to “win” in competition. For example, in powerlifting the support equipment has gotten so sophisticated that the competitors who “win” equipped bench press competitions are the one’s who could spend the most on equipment. In tennis, high performance rackets have a major advantage over lesser products.”
      See above comments…
      “My view is that it is probably useful to try to contain drug use in amateur sports. For the vast majority of us who will never make a cent playing our sport, we should have some assurance that we are walking onto a “level playing field””
      See above comments…
      I agree with most of your points, but the current approach does not work, is based on poor science, and is hypocritical. Nothing gets people, especially kids, to ignore a policy or advice like hypocritical positions taken by adults.

  2. Dave Stuhlsatz 5 years ago

    I’m intrigued by the “test health” approach. Of course, I agree with Will that it’s too practical and honest to ever be implemented in our lifetimes. Also, as John Romano has pointed out, the purpose of athletic training is to make the competition less equal–through better athlete selection, better coaching, better nutrition, better gear, and better drugs.
    I use creatine, knee wraps, and a belt. I compete against people who use the same stuff, and some people who use better stuff. It’s up to me whether I want to get better gear.

    • Author
      Will Brink 5 years ago

      Creatine and knee wraps? Cheater! I kid 🙂

  3. Jeff 5 years ago

    If the following are true — many Pro athletes use PEDs, Pro athletes are 10 steps ahead of testers and getting better at it, and we won’t be able to test some new PEDs, then why bother banning PEDs? The playing field isn’t level and never could be. I don’t have a problem testing the health of athletes, but if they want to push themselves to the point of reduced or less than optimal health, weather through PEDs or over-use, then that’s their choice. I’d go as far a saying legalize ALL drugs. That’s another ‘war’ that can never be won. Focus on prevention, education, and treatment.

    • Author
      Will Brink 5 years ago

      “If the following are true — many Pro athletes use PEDs, Pro athletes are 10 steps ahead of testers and getting better at it, and we won’t be able to test some new PEDs, then why bother banning PEDs?”
      And that’s the elephant in the room is it not? The current reason is as outlined in the vid (1) concern for the athletes health and (2) ethical/moral reasons of PEDs being “cheating” and not a level playing field.
      “The playing field isn’t level and never could be. I don’t have a problem testing the health of athletes, but if they want to push themselves to the point of reduced or less than optimal health, weather through PEDs or over-use, then that’s their choice. ”
      But then we’d have to admit as a society competitive sports is not about health but winning. Are we ready for that? That would take a total shift in our paradigm per my approach offered.
      “I’d go as far a saying legalize ALL drugs. That’s another ‘war’ that can never be won. Focus on prevention, education, and treatment.”
      As a Libertarian leaning person by nature, I agree. By all statistics that exist, the War On Drugs was lost a long time ago and no one seems to dispute that, yet the continue to vote for throwing more money and resources at it. But, that’s a whole other can of worms to open!

      • Jeff 5 years ago

        “But then we’d have to admit as a society competitive sports is not about health but winning. Are we ready for that?”
        I think most people subconsciously accept that competitive sports are all about winning, not health, it’s when they are forced to verbalize their position their programmed ethics don’t allow them to admit it. But yes, I think we’re just about ready for allowing PEDs in some sports — or maybe I’m not very good at reading the pulse of the general public. A poll would be interesting.

  4. Robert Cruder 5 years ago

    A Calvinist says God wants those with better genes to win and that PEDs violate God’s will. Others say that PEDs level the playing field. Does a ban deny those who did not ask for their genes any chance to fairly compete?
    Should the younger automatically win or may the older use PEDs to compete equally?
    Many PEDs merely allow one to train harder and recover faster to train again. Does the claim that PEDs are immoral because they substitute for effort apply to those?
    A family or government funding equipment, facilities, coaches and eliminating the need to earn a living are worth far more than PEDs but no effort is made to equalize those.
    If “fairness” is ambiguous for competitors, why regulate non-competitive amateur activities? Does one criminalize millions of amateurs to simplify enforcement against a tiny fraction of competitors?
    Politicians criminalize recreational drugs along with PEDs to “protect children”. Far more are injured or killed by ethanol and by automobiles but adults are not incarcerated for possessing either.

  5. mark grove 5 years ago

    I’m not sure what to say about ending drug testing. It’s here in the big 4 pro sports,the IFBB I would think, and the olympics.
    What Richard was saying about the percentage of a advantage you get if you actually take them regularly is what intrigues me. I don’t care if they take them. As long as its done safely.
    And what if no one was tested, and the majority took them. Then what? Would it change things even for mediocre and average athletes. Not just the top players?
    Who knows, but it would be interesting if the testing could prove all that.

    • Author
      Will Brink 5 years ago

      My approach would neither condone nor support PED use. If anything, PED use would go down as excessive use will often negatively impact one or more of the standard tests for health. And if they can use the PEDs without any major changes in all those health metrics, then why care? We already know the answer: It does not feed into the current PEDs as cheating and unfair and unethical, etc, story we feed people. But we also know it’s not working and never has. Read also the discussion by medical ethicist Norm Fost MD:
      http://www.steroidlaw.com/2005/04/steroids-and-sports-yes-an-interview-with-norm-fost-md/

  6. Mike Sterling 5 years ago

    Here’s my quick comment Will.
    ‘Health’ has a range and even controversial boundaries. The absence of elevated enzymes, hormones etc will amount to good health in athletes but it will be difficult to say what minimum (and maximum) levels are signs of bad health. For example, low blood pressure is a symptom in many athletes but it is not treated as a dis-ease state since the levels often rebound in the off season. Mild Hypertension may be similarly treated.
    Also some athletes with varying levels of ill-health can and are allowed to compete.
    Where to draw the line would be the issue.

  7. Hamish Ferguson 3 years ago

    They actually do have a health test of sorts in cycling. At professional events riders can be required to submit a blood sample (the testers are nicknamed the Vampires) and if their hematocrit levels are above 50% they are not labelled as having tested positive but are not permitted to compete for “health reasons”.
    In the movie The Programme, based on the Lance Armstrong story dramatizes him injecting a saline solution in a panic as the testers arrived at his caravan early one morning at the Tour de France. On his return to Pro Cycling it was reported that over the Tour of Italy his hematocrit levels dropped over the 21 days of cycling 2 months out from the Tour de France and then in July his levels stayed just under the threshold indicating that he was micro-dosing through the Tour.
    The is still urine sample testing for banned substances in cycling but as illustrated the health tests can be cheated as well.

    • Will Brink 3 years ago

      It’s not a health test as much as a test to catch them using EPO. Two, it’s only one test of course. Three, per my comments, if they can consistently pass an extensive health focused test, than they are healthy enough to compete, with or without the PEDs. The mircro dosing forcing him to keep a healthy hematocrit which greatly reduced likelihood of problems during the race.

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