The Dope on Doping

Both Tour De France winner Floyd Landis and world record sprinter Justin Gatlin have been accused of artificially tinkering with their testosterone levels. In the 80s and 90s testosterone, which was often injected, was less popular than closely-related, synthetic anabolic steroids. But testosterone seems to be making a resurgence in the form of skin patches and creams.

Testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone, which aids the development and strength of muscles. It is also said to increase aggressiveness and to reduce recovery time. Some scientists question its effectiveness, especially for the energy boost that Landis had on stage 17 since it takes some time for the benefits to set in.

Gatlin, who like Landis denies all the charges, is embroiled in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative scandal. BALCO, a West Coast lab, has been accused of creating all sorts of designer drugs, including ‘The Cream’ and ‘The Clear,’ anabolic steroids. The first is taken topically and the second orally. These kinds of steroids work by attaching to receptors in your muscle cells and promoting protein production (The word ‘anabolic’ refers to constructive metabolism). They may also make it easier to recover from workouts by preventing your tissues from degrading.

The Clear, one of the most advanced new steroids, is actually Tetrahydrogestrinone or THG. It has been chemically modified to disintegrate when a urine sample is tested, keeping athletes in the clear. The inventor of the Clear, who was recently convicted of conspiring to traffic illegal drugs, has repented. “I’m very much against sports doping.” he said. “I do believe there should be a level playing field, and this whole thing needs to be addressed.”

For a BALCO timeline, look here. And check in with the San Francisco Chronicle’s continuing coverage.

Another popular testosterone-producing drug is androstenedione, or Andro, Mark McGwire’s enhancer of choice. It was banned in the majors two years ago.

If you aren’t looking for muscle mass but for endurance, you might try blood doping, which increases your red blood cells so that you get more oxygen to your muscles and can train longer and harder. There are a number of ways to blood dope. You can withdraw some of your own blood, oxygenate it, then re-inject it. Or you can use someone else’s ready-made blood. Cyclist Tyler Hamilton was banned for doing the latter.

If blood makes you squeamish, just get some recombinant human erythropoietin or EPO, inject it under the skin, and before you know it, you’re red blood cells will be multiplying. Or if you want to stay within the rules of the anti-doping agencies, get yourself an altitude tent, which provides low-oxygen, mountainous air and causes your red cells to climb. Or move to Kenya.

Performance enhancers have been around a long time while testing only really got going in the late 60s. The creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999 was supposed to formalize international standards for sport, but infighting and controversy rages. WADA has criticized the testing protocol
at the Tour De France, where a minimum of four cyclists (the overall leader, stage winner, and 2 random riders) are tested each day.

When athletes are caught, they also criticize the protocol and everything else they can think of. Landis suggested at one point that Jack Daniels may have boosted his testosterone levels. He isn’t the first. Olympic gold-medal-winning sprinter Dennis Mitchell claimed that alcohol and sex with his wife caused his high testosterone ratio in 1998.

Gatlin is going with an ‘exceptional circumstances’ defense, whatever that means while his coach is parading around a polygraph. Barry Bonds allegedly thought the Clear was flaxseed.

And my favorite is the ‘vanishing twin defense.’ Tyler Hamilton, who is still fighting his ban on his own blog, claimed that he was not doping but that he had a twin in the womb that did not develop. This gave him chimerism, or two types of blood. It’s natural, you see.

Finally, for instruction on accidental doping, take a look at this video.

You guys need to watch the Real Sports episode on steroids because you haven’t a clue as to what you’re talking about relative to steroids. To parrot the mainstream media’s viewpoint shows either your willingness to be sheep to make points with a ready-made and uninformed anti-steroid crowd, or your laziness as investigators of the topic.

David Wilson    Aug 30, 09:40 PM    #

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