Thursday, August 8, 2013
Steroids: Americans love to take them and love to blame them
Oh the sexy topic of Steroids in the western world has been quite consistent within the sport culture. It's been talked about on major media outlets, such as CNN, Fox News, ESPN, HBO, etc. People seem to love to talk about it. The interesting thing is about the topic of steroids is that most of the people who are speaking know nothing about the topic. Makes you think what else people are talking about that they know nothing on as well. I would like to take a different approach and not sensationalize the topic of great proportions with crazy statistics that aren't verified and myths that are just simply not true. I'd like to examine the truth about what is really going on and why we have come to this point in 2013 with regard to the impact steroids have on our culture.
Steroids are nothing new to sport or even to society. In the mid-late 1800's there were recorded cases of people ingesting the testicles of other animals in hopes to raise testosterone levels. The real first attempt at pharmaceutical synthetic hormone production was in 1931 when Adolf Butenandt, a German chemist purified the male hormone androstenone from tens of thousands of litres of urine. Back in the dominance in Olympic sport by the East Germans, they had a government effort to create a lab in the 1950's, JenaPharm, which later became Schering Labs. The evolution of science has taken this process to much cleaner and precise isolation of key hormones. Human Growth Hormone as we know it today wasn't available synthetically until 1981 and wasn't readily available by prescription until years after that. Previously anyone who wanted to HGH had to have it extracted from the pituitary glands of cadavers.
Now we are entering new levels of where the Chinese are on the forefront of experimenting with gene doping and people like Patrick Arnold who have a mastery level of chemistry and understand how the Merck Index works are able to make designer drugs that are undetectable under current testing parameters. Victor Conte, who was the founder and president of BALCO labs in California had described how the process worked and how Patrick was able to produce designer drugs to be off the radar of the professional sports federations as well as the Olympics.
A Mass Spectrometry Fragmentation process is used to breakdown all known illegal substances that are currently banned in that federation. As Conte had simply described, that the process is similar to a fingerprint database at a police station. All known finger prints are stored in a database and if you are accused of a crime and they run the prints, well if you're not in the system then there is no match. It's only until you are then fingerprinted and then entered into the system can you be cross referenced with an existing print. Same thing with the testing parameters for detecting hormones, stimulants and other banned substances. If it's not known to exist and is not entered into the Mass Spectrometry machine then you will not have a fingerprint match to be cross referenced with. You can be on some very potent drugs but can pass such a test if it's not known to exist. So now that the brief history and identification of the evolution and testing practices are identified (and I truely mean brief as there is so much more but this was a good start) let's get into the current use and stigma that is attached to steroids and sport.
You really can't even turn on ESPN and one of it's many daily sports shows without the topic of steroids coming up. Whether it be professional baseball, the NFL, Olympic sports, it's constantly being discussed and it seems an athlete somewhere is getting popped for a failed result. Now I'm not writing this to talk about the people who are being busted and how this is bad or good. I simply want to talk about the misconception that exists with misinformation and other agendas the media has.
I would like to identify the training protocols of a lot of the best athletes in the world. Not just the American professional sport athletes that made into big celebrities here, I'm talking about the rest of the world and a lot of the athletes that are never seen here until they are wearing a gold neck on the podium. I'm talking about the weightlifters, the track and field athletes, the wrestlers, sports that aren't mainstream following here. Those athletes no matter how genetically gifted they may be, they need to train at the highest intensity levels under great systems with great coaches, great diets, recovery methods and rest. As Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky has said, exceptional athletes train with exceptional methods, and average athletes train with average methods. Now taking steroids in this equation is where I think a lot of people lose sight as to what's really going on. If you would examine the very high percentage of use within the recreational "gym rat" community within commercial gyms across the country, then you would see that not everyone in these gyms are performing at the highest level of sport. Steroids don't make you something that you are not. They are not going to put a gold medal around your neck just because you took some testosterone. We have to look into what these champions are truly doing. And just as most things they are involved in, it becomes a training mean. There is a right way to train and a wrong way to train. There is a right way to eat, and a wrong way to eat. There is a right way to take anabolic hormones and there is a wrong way to take anabolic hormones.
The thing that I feel is a major cop out within the structure of the United States Olympic Sports programs is the excuse that our lack of success in many sports is due to the competition being on steroids and the U.S. athletes are clean. They whine that it's not fair or that it's not a level playing field to be a part of so it's why we lose in certain areas. That is total bullshit. It's funny how many people, including famous actors take hormones for anti-aging purposes, to extend their movie careers and keep those tens of millions of dollar per movie contracts coming, but we don't really mind that. It's entertainment. Well what do you think professional sports are? I mean in some cases the way the rules are structured in the NBA, it's not even a pure form of the sport of basketball it's governed under a rule of a philosophy of entertainment. The stars gotta get their points, they gotta be visable and healthy each week. How are people able to be at the top of their athletic performances without the ability to recover and restore? I'm not saying everyone in the NBA, or even any other major professional sport association is on steroids, I'm just saying people are always going to do what they need to do in order to extend their career, fame, notoriety, etc.
In the sports I mentioned above where we are on the bottom rung of international competition, the Americans often cry and say it's unfair competing with someone who takes steroids. They are looking at it all wrong. Actually, what is more unfair, is that American athletes who are full time students, work full time jobs and have families have to compete with an athlete from China, or Iran, or Russia who is a full time athlete, period. Their life is their sport and everything is set up for them to train, sleep, repeat. They have been prepared optimally at a young age to be ready to accept the rigorous nature of their training and progress in a system with predictable results. See that's where the U.S. has already lost before the competition has started. It's not about what happens on that platform that night, it's what happened the last 15 years before. That's where people are not seeing the contrast and place steroids as a much bigger piece of the pie to measure success. I truly believe that if steroids were not a part of the sport culture, that the Americans would still be very poor in sports like weightlifting due to the contrasting systems that in the U.S. has shown to be very below average. It very much is a cultural thing and can be another debate at an another time but lets at least not kid ourselves and blame steroids as the reason for a lack of medals. It is much deeper than that.