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One of the most important sports articles ever written
October 27, 2003 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Over the past few years, doping in sports has grown into an arms race of biology, chemistry, and technology as atheletes attempt to push their limits and escape detection. While it's hard to estimate how widespread the problem is or how much it actually improves one's performance, one amateur athelete for Outside Magazine decided to test the latest on himself as he spent 8 months training for an ultramarathon cycling event. The article also notes pro-cheating sites filled with atheletes trading stories of their own programs. Disturbing stuff, when you think of all the records being broken in sports these days. As Rafe says, this might be one of the most important sports articles ever written. note: it's a long article, but worth it.
posted by mathowie (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I think we should have an all drug olympics, where people can use whatever substances they want to even in the event itself. It would be crazy to see what kinds of super humans these guys could turn into if they didn't have to pretend that they weren't doping. Records would shatter in every sport.
posted by trbrts at 12:48 PM on October 27, 2003


trbrts, SNL did that almost exactly 15 years ago.

I heard an interview with this guy on the radio, and I'm curious to check out the long piece...
posted by NortonDC at 1:21 PM on October 27, 2003


Very interesting article, but now (even though I have no problems with needles) I feel nauseous and a bit light-headed.
posted by jalexei at 1:26 PM on October 27, 2003


trbrts, the author of this article argues against such a super-hyper-mega-olympics, observing that the desire to succeed on an international stage would overcome some folks' desire to keep their bodies in a reasonable, healthy condition. And perhaps more important than the danger to themselves (which you may not care about and may not morally have to care about), such an event, he claims, would amount to the modern equivalent of the roman gladiatorial games in which we would cheer competitors and cheer louder for their gruesome demise. Of course, some would argue that we already have such events (ultimate fighting championship; Academy awards). I'm just sayin'.

As far as seeing records shatter, I wonder if that would be a big draw. I'd like to hope that most people would find the natural limitations of the human body more inspiring and interesting than the unnatural.
posted by evinrude at 1:30 PM on October 27, 2003


being slightly cynical here but I think we've already had several Olympics were many of the competitors have been drug aided.
posted by johnny novak at 1:35 PM on October 27, 2003


Interesting article. I'm a little surprised this guy didn't worry more about damaging his body and hurting his future as an amateur athlete. He also seemed to gloss over any negative effects the drugs had-- he briefly mentions getting headaches, but there's no mention at all of sexual side effects, weird hair growth, withdrawal, or any other negative effects.
I wonder how many athletes would be tempted into trying performance-enhancing drugs after reading something like this.
posted by bonheur at 1:37 PM on October 27, 2003


This is a big issue in Canada, right now. Ever since Ben Johnson was famously caught cheating in Seoul, and after the ensuing national angst, observers have implied that by fighting the clean fight, our athletes have been competing at significant disadvantage. The recent revelations by the American Olympic Committee brought this into sharp focus: Ben Johnson got excommunicated, Carl Lewis sainted. This is only an example only; the US should be congratulated for dealing with the problem. Many other countries still have not faced up to their pasts. Canada was unique only in that Johnson was caught so publicly.

It looks like Russia will be next: Beckie Scott just got a silver and may get gold yet for the 2002 winter Olympics. Maybe there is cause for hope.
posted by bonehead at 1:42 PM on October 27, 2003


The only way to stop the cheating is to remove the financial incentive. With the incredibly lucrative endorsement contracts that are at stake, it's a wonder that there are any atheletes that don't cheat.
posted by bshort at 1:47 PM on October 27, 2003


He also seemed to gloss over any negative effects the drugs had-- he briefly mentions getting headaches, but there's no mention at all of sexual side effects, weird hair growth, withdrawal, or any other negative effects.

I recently heard a follow up interview with the author. He was asked this exact question, and his response was that he was not on any one performance enhancing drug long to have those kind of side effects.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:01 PM on October 27, 2003


Wow. On the one hand, steroids scare the bejeezus out of me. On the other, who wouldn't want to take something that would make workout recovery faster? Good thing HGH is out of my budget; I'll have to settle for ice packs and tacos for my post-workout recovery.
posted by RakDaddy at 2:42 PM on October 27, 2003


Evinrude wrote: would amount to the modern equivalent of the roman gladiatorial games in which we would cheer competitors and cheer louder for their gruesome demise. Of course, some would argue that we already have such events (ultimate fighting championship; Academy awards).

Academy awards--heh heh. Thinking of assorted anorexic or drug dependent actors. Too true.

I think we should have a smart drugs olympics. I want to be on team Provigil(tm).
posted by mecran01 at 6:12 PM on October 27, 2003


It's an interesting question to work out what exactly amounts to cheating - obviously drinking protein shakes is cool, but at some point when a substance becomes too helpful it's deemed unfair, despite the fact that in order to make use of the substance, the athlete has to work it.

But the way this guy described it, it does sound like something just happens to you. On the other hand, sometimes something just happens to you when you're working out, you get that rush, or second wind, and feel the natural burst of strength... what is it about the division between an intentional decision and an inherent trait that makes it so important? Somehow we want to compete, to compare, our internal capacities, and modifying those through substances we choose rather than those we might crave (when you exercise a lot you often have a hunger for more protein, eg) naturally occurs to us as unfair...

anyway, thanks, interesting article.
posted by mdn at 8:17 PM on October 27, 2003


Hey, so some guy is born in a random country with great genes. Does that mean his country should get some kind of recognition? I'd rather give awards to the people who, despite their physical genetic limitations still beat those who won the DNA crapshoot. Let's give Ben Johnson back the gold he deserves.

There is some sarcasm in there. Look hard and you may spot it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:35 AM on October 28, 2003


I call bullshit.

As I was reading the story, I was increasingly put off by how artificial the quotations seemed. The doctor, in particular, spoke in eloquent paragraphs that are unlike the way people really speak. And then I realized that all the sources in the story were anonymous... did anyone spot a single named source that he interviewed himself? It would've been trivial to get on-the-record comment on doping.

So, I decided to see if I can verify the only traceable quote: the one on extreme-athlete.com. Try it yourself. No matter what I tried (girlie and boy, girlie and aspirin, variations on "girlie" and "girly", big and coffin, elevates and evil, mom and human, etc.) I couldn't find the original quote. The search engine's not perfect; however, I was repeatedly able to find a confused denial by "thegreat1."

Anyone else have better luck?
posted by ptermit at 5:21 AM on October 28, 2003


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