Thursday, March 3, 2011

False Negatives and True Positives

For more than a decade, we’ve subscribed to the tenants of Drug-Free Sports. About fifteen years ago, we were approached by some competitors who were concerned about what appeared to be pretty obvious “saucing up” by a few of the competitors. Mistakenly of the belief that the honor system would work, we asked that everyone execute a form that they were competing without the assistance of any banned substance. Guess that didn’t work because we were observing people that clearly did not bulk up by just lifting weights- despite the fact that they gleefully signed the forms.

I’m not unfamiliar with the benefits of steroid use; back in the 70’s, the de rigueur for all power athletes at all levels of competition was to “use.” Prescriptions could be obtained legally and I, as a paramedic administered such drugs to a couple of my Olympic weight lifting team member graduate students while on the faculty at the University of Maryland. After all, “everyone was doing it.” But the times and climate have changed.

For awhile, sport scientists were discounting the benefits; as a card carrying Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, I would espouse the party line that “they don’t work.” All the while, I’m watching guys add 50 pounds of lean mass and see their PRs skyrocket. We lost a lot of credibility by denying the obvious. Anabolic steroids do work. That’s why it’s cheating.

So, we started testing in the Challenge. Initially, every time we conducted a drug test, we caught someone. There would be protests, but not too vocal protests. In the last couple of years, we’ve not detected anyone using. We know about cycling off anabolic steroids, hence we would test randomly. We also know that some people may have been innocently caught because you can’t believe the labels of some packagers. But, we hold the end user responsible for knowing what they’re putting in their bodies. Simply stated, you must know the origin of your supplements. There are some reputable brands out there. For example, EAS has to post a $250K bond with the NFL to have their products tested. I know this because I attended the NFL Combine and sat in on the meeting on drug testing.

There are legally prescribed drugs that are banned for sport use. But we have never had this problem. There are recreational drugs that are illegal, but are not ergogenic. Maybe that was what caused the initial push back when we announced that we were starting drug testing. To make one point perfectly clear, we do not report results to anyone other than the offender. And cannabis, while a banned substance, does not rise to the level of enhancing performance.
If you want to know what’s banned, go to:

The impetus for this post came from an article in the Washington Post’s Sports section this week. The link is reproduced in this Blog so you can read the entire article for yourself. In the article, there were some examples of athletes who were screwed over by bad data.

Our policy is a part of our rules. Please read them over. Nothing has changed- just like the boot thing- same rules. Enforcement by testing everyone is not possible or even feasible. But, we will test. We would much rather not spend the money, but regrettably, that honor system thing just didn’t cut it.

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