October 14, 2005

Getting the Drugs Out of My System

I've been doing a lot of writing about drugs, and especially steroids, lately; not only here, but over at SportsFilter, too, where I can't seem to talk about anything else. I have to stop, or soon everybody will hate me.

The most recent positive test has hit a little bit closer to home than most, and left me somewhat depressed. But aside from that, I have been collecting some news stories that I wanted to pass along. I'm going to use this post to collect some of these disjointed ideas, and then leave the topic of steroids alone for a while. (I do want to write something about Gene Doping, but that's really a different subject.)

Never Enough?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a four-part series about anabolic steroids last week. The series was titled "Never Enough: Steroids in Sports" and covered the history of steroid use in amateur and professional sports.

I found parts one and two particularly interesting, as they covered the early history of steroid use among US weightlifters, and early regulation efforts and failures. Here are the links to parts three and four.

Need a Boost?

The Seattle Times has been running their own series on performance enhancement in sports, called "Getting a Boost." The series is in three parts, and there are also a number of supplemental articles. Some of the articles cover very well-worn ground (the dangers of supplements, the uncertainty in EPO test results), but the coverage is very broad and they've made room for some unusual perspectives. Take a look at this piece about Dr. Norman Frost, who questions whether anabolic steroids have any negative health effects, and this one, about the increase in steroid use among female athletes.

Erasing the GDR?

German track and field authorities have announced that they are going to review the validity of their national records — at least, those records that are still held by the German Democratic Republic. The investigation was apparently prompted by a request from one of the East German record-holders, who feels that the East German doping program renders her performances invalid.

Drug Pacifists?

World-class athletes from different sports and different eras, Bode Miller and Eddie Merckx have both spoken out against the current zero-tolerance policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Miller, an alpine ski star from the US, expressed support for legalizing EPO:

I'm surprised it's illegal, because in our sport, it would be pretty minimal health risks, and it would actually make it safer for the athletes …

You can follow the link to see Miller's logic on the last point, but he seems to suffer from the (common) misconception that drugs are banned because they are harmful to athletes. It's clear to me that substances are banned only when they are unfairly performance-enhancing — perhaps a subject for another day.

Taming the Italians?

IOC president Jacques Rogge (and WADA president Dick Pound) will ask Italian officials to make an exception to their tough anti-doping laws during the 2006 winter Olympics. Under Italian law, athletes caught in possession of performance-enhancing drugs could face criminal charges.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, athletes should obey the laws of the countries that they visit, and face the consequences if they don't. I don't see any reason that they should have special immunity from the law. On the other hand, I don't see that aggressive criminal prosecution of visiting athletes is really to anybody's benefit. My prediction is that Rogge will get what he wants.

New and Better Steroid Test?

Details are pretty sketchy, but Reuters reported on Wednesday that British scientists have come up with a new and better steroid test:

Thanks to our technique, in the future it will be much more difficult to escape detection when using performance-enhancing steroids.

I can unequivocally say that I'm all for that.


I knew I had forgotten one; for the medical specialists in the crowd, here's a review article I came across titled, Cardiovascular Toxicities of Performance-Enhancing Substances in Sports.

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