Performance Enhancing Drugs: Opinions and My Two Cents

The CrossFit Games get bigger every year. And every year the topic comes up again: the likelihood that performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) are being used by top athletes. And this conversation tends to also bring people to discussing the use of PEDs in the larger arena of sports in general.

This year a very informative and provocative piece kicked off the bulk of the current conversation in regards to CrossFit PED use:

Steroids, CrossFit, and the CrossFit Games

They did a very good job of explaining the state of testing and evading, and presenting the probabilities without naming anyone specifically. Nor do they state if they are for or against the use of PEDs in CrossFit, they just state the high probability that they are there.

As a complimentary piece, Justin from 70's Big wrote about his experience with using and non-using athletes. Giving another "they are neither good nor bad, but they ARE here and you have to adjust accordingly" point of view is also a good contrast to the normal knee jerk of "PEDs are evil!" script that's played out over and over:

Steroids and CrossFit?

The knee jerk is out there, though. And for those of use that don't use, we want to take the moral high ground, cling to the trope of Refer Madness, and lambast those that use as idiots, cheaters, and sinners:

Open Letter to PED Users

PEDs are here to stay.

For those of us that train clean, it's just a reality we'll learn to live within. I train for three sports right now: Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and Strongman. Two of those are with federations that don't test. However, as long as I'm competing in Olympic lifting, I feel that I have implicitly agreed to not use banned substances. That means when I compete in powerlifting and strongman, as (if) I rise up the ranks, I'll have to be okay with being second (or third, or whatever).

If I wasn't an Olympic lifter, would I take PEDs? They aren't actually banned in either of the other sports that I do, so it wouldn't be cheating… Honestly, I'm really, really, really happy that it's not a decision I have to make. As a competitive athlete, choosing to inhibit yourself by not taking advantage of the same tools that others have would seem a little foolish.

But I am a nationally competitive Olympic lifter. So, thank goodness, I don't have to make that decision.

With that said, I don't necessarily think taking PEDs is wrong.

If you're in a sport that doesn't test and basically assumes you're "juicing" (most powerlifting federations, strongman, highland games, bodybuilding), you're not breaking any rules. The people that I know that do them WORK THEIR FUCKING ASSES OFF and they treat themselves right and they know the risks involved. No one takes them with the idea that they are going to sit on their behind and get jacked. It doesn't work that way. These are people that already train hard, and want the capacity to train harder. It's not a short cut for them, it's a bridge to another level of dedication.

Then there is a sect of people that do PEDs because it helps them stay on top of their game for their job. Firefighters, police, military. I don't personally know anyone in this population, but I can't say I blame them. I also don't think this is a bad thing. Who are they cheating? The criminals they are up against?

Then there is a population that wants to use them to just look the best they can. These people usually just go to a hormone replacement doctor for testosterone lotion and growth hormone. These people don't bother me either. I hope they are studying the effects and being smart about it (this isn't a "some is good so more must be better" situation) but if they feel it increases their quality of life, leave them alone.

And of course, there is the population that takes PEDs for legitimate medical purposes. Cancer, AIDS, and patients of other wasting diseases all use anti-catabolics to keep from dying of other complications. I don't think anyone has a problem with this population.

For other perspectives, check out the following links:

Gods, Drugs, and the Purity of Sport

USADA Sanctions divided by year

A Critique of Anti-Doping Policies