The Hot Juice, Juiced, Wasps, Roids, and Other Dope

This morning I spoke with my long time friend and former USA Cycling World Team Coach.  He’s been in involved with competitive cycling for over 55 years.  He’s never doped or had any of his athletes dope. He’s lived in a clean athletic world at a time with doping was unchecked.

Nestor and me, circa 2000

The phone call was among other things a friendly chat.  We hadn’t spoken in over a year although we stay in touch on social media. Social media is okay but a call or seeing someone face to face is much better.

Coach Gernay with the Jr. World’s Team 1976

He is a great coach and has won a number of National Cycling Championships as an athlete.  He knows how to ride a bike and to inspire other riders to excel.  There’s even a race series named in his honor, The Nestor Cup.

Gernay on the velodrome
Nestor Gernay and Eddy Merckx

The call was initiated by a question I sent to him.  I’d been looking at time trial results for a few riders in my age group.  I noticed a number of them held speeds matching individual time trial speeds of professional cyclists reported during the Tour de France.  Those data seemed very unlikely without some form of artificial support.

I wanted to know if those speeds were natural.  I didn’t suspect they were and the former coach immediately called a foul.  He added  he’s observed a lot of riders today picked up the sport in their 40s.  They missed those early youthful years of development. They wanted speed, had money, and were doping. He estimated as high as 60% of older cyclists may be doping.

I think the number is high but lower than 60%.  There’s a lot of attention being paid to doping.  Doping regardless there is still a problem with doping cycling. (1) Amateur athletes don’t seem too worried about getting caught. Many don’t need the sport to support them financially and have nothing to lose if they get caught. Furthermore, the current opinion on doping seems to lean heavily toward to older athletes. (2-4). In the past I’ve written at the rate is probably around 25% of older athletes are doping based on research I’ve read. (5)

Me on the Dick Lane Velodrome

According to my former coach, “These older guys have the money and they want to win, so they’re doping.” He added, “If it were less expensive to test riders, we’d catch more.”

Crash on a bike and archery will likely be out of the picture for awhile.

No matter, I’ll probably race bikes again.  I do miss it. It would only be in a time trial – less chance of a crash that might mess me up in archery.  Don’t even get me started about the doping in archery.  Well, I’m started….

If you’re on a beta-blocker, over 50, and don’t have a therapeutic use exemption and compete in archery you are cheating.  I doubt you’ll get caught.  You’re over 50 and no one seems to care whether or not you’re taking a beta-blocker for hypertension or other problem or if you get eat some of your buddy’s drugs before a tournament.  The sport organizations would rather have your annual dues and registrations fees than worry with sportsmanship. Heck, you can get your dope online. (6)

References:

 If you’re doping to get a $2.00 medal – you are an idiot.

While cycling over the past few days I was daydreaming about racing.  Recently, I’ve been looking at times (results) of cyclists and duathletes in my age group. Even though I’ve not raced a bike in a few years I think about racing. Man, the times for some of the results I’ve found are incredible.

If I did a bicycle race it would be a time-trial, an individual event, to reduce chances of crashing.  Crashing hurts and could impact archery as well as my body.

The last purely cycling race I did was in North Carolina.  It was a time-trial.  I knew my expected time before going into the race and knew those practice times would be practically unbeatable.  In the race, I held my time and still got beaten.  It wasn’t even close.  The fellow that won was a complete animal.

At a recent 5K, I did win that race; the second fastest time of the day came from a fellow nearly 10 years older than me (I’m 64 in a few weeks.) That was simply amazing.  This old fellow smoked many high school track runners.

Thinking about racing I measured results of people in my age group at major events against my times.  I did fine against those posted results until around the 4thplace.  Then, the top finishers had faster times.  Not at all events but at some I found results online of men in their 60s who were as fast as pros racing the Tour de France. Dang!

Well, not dang but dope.

Over the past couple of years the USADA has busted 56 cyclists for doping.(1)  Fifty of them are in the Masters division with an average age of 50 years old. (1) By the way, 2 archers were also busted over that time frame. – they weren’t Masters. (1) Fifty Masters cyclists busted for doping! Why? It’s not as if Nike is looking for Masters athletes to give out huge sums of money.

The fellow that beat me cycling in North Carolina was doping. It was a regional race and no one was getting drug tested.  I’ve done a lot of racing and seen a lot of cheaters; this guy was just about out of his skin he was so amped. I didn’t say anything – it wasn’t worth it.

It was discouraging to take a second place at that bike race.  I’d worked hard to win, losing sucked.  At that 5K with the old fellow running like a cheetah I was lucky in that he wasn’t in my age group.  He, also, wasn’t around after the race.  I think he was doping, training, and plans to stop doping before any major event, make sure he tests clean then compete. He wasn’t around for the podium glory post-race because he probably wasn’t interested in answering any questions. Heck, if that worked for the Russian and Germans it will work for him.

Knowing how often Masters athletes are doping is sort of a bummer when it comes to motivation. (2,3) I have decided to look for time-trials and other individual cycling events for fun.  At nearly 64 years old fitness is a more important reason to train.  Racing is simply a fun activity.

Archery, unlike cycling, is a more serious endeavor when it comes to competition for me.  Archery is a test for me of talent transfer and finding a sport where an older person can be competitive longer.  Like I said above when I looked over the list of athletes suspended for doping 2 archers were on the list.(1)

Many of the older archers I shoot against are taking beta-blockers.(4,5) Y’all keep taking your beta-blocker. Archery isn’t worth a stroke or worse. And like cycling Nike isn’t looking for older archers to hand out big checks.

I can recognize the individual likely to have high blood pressure and be taking a beta-blocker. For the most part these individuals are easy to spot and they’ll sooner or later fatigue during a competition, have a momentary loss of concentration, and despite the added advantage of the beta-blocker will give up a few points. (6-8) Not often, but often enough.

Doping in amateur sports, like cycling and archery, is a fact of life.  Doping among athletes over 50 is common. (9)  If you compete clean great.  If you are over 50 and are competing clean great.  If you’re doping because you have a medical need get a therapeutic use exemption.  If you’re doping to get a $2.00 medal – you are an idiot.

Reference:

  1. https://www.usada.org/testing/results/sanctions/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jun/01/dope-and-glory-the-rise-of-cheating-in-amateur-sport
  3. http://jumping-the-gun.com/?p=2641
  4. https://www.rxlist.com/high_blood_pressure_hypertension_medications/drugs-condition.htm
  5. https://healthfully.com/athletes-would-use-beta-blockers-5622585.html
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181843/
  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/173068.php
  8. https://healthunlocked.com/bhf/posts/136191614/beta-blockers-confusion-loss-on-concentration-side-effects…slightly-anxious-has-anyone-felt-this
  9. https://www.narcononuk.org.uk/blog/the-problem-of-amateur-sports-doping.html

Fitness Minded

I often mention the number of archers that I compete against that appear, in my expert opinion, to be taking beta-blockers. They’re taking the drug, a PED in archery, to manage their hypertension.

I spent a solid decade studying hypertension and methods of treating it.  During that period I published research, sponsored the research of others, and helped develop methods to improve the health of people that have hypertension.

One of the best ways to combat the typical hypertension I see is through diet and exercise.  I worry about hypertension and the impact it could have on me.  Personally, a stroke would seriously limit my activity.

With that in mind, I exercise a lot.  The exercise aids in keeping my weight down – I do enjoy a good meal.  I admit I have exercised a lot all my life.

Picking up archery later (at 58 years old) than most archers being fit has not hurt me.  If I stopped shooting a bow tomorrow I’d still run and ride a bike.  In fact, I run almost everyday and ride a bike at least 4 times a week.

Wear these once then wash them. Fives days worth this week

I used to ride more when I raced bicycles.  When I picked up duathlons and triathlons cycling became another element of the sport. Of all the sports I’ve done cycling is my favorite (no offense to archers).  Actually, football is my second favorite sport and had it not been for cycling I’d have played in college.

Lots of nice open roads here in rural Georgia to enjoy cycling

In my junior year of high school I’d been scouted by a few college teams.  My high school coach had all but guaranteed my parents I’d get a chance to play in college. To them that meant college tuition they’d not have worry about.

But, I got hooked on cycling and thought I’d give it a ride to see if I’d make an Olympic Team.  It is impossible to keep weight on while racing bicycles.  So, my football opportunities dropped as fast as the weight.

Cycling didn’t pan out either.  Just out of high school I did have a chance to race in Europe but passed and gradually migrated my attention to academics then a day job.  Through out it all I stayed on a bike. And I eventually raced in Europe.

ITU Long Course Duathlon, World Championship – 2007

Decades of fitness are paying off now that I’m in my mid-60s.  I take no prescription drugs.  My blood pressure runs around 117/68 and my percentage of body fat is in the single digits.

Where fitness pays other dividends is in archery.  Over a long two-day tournament I am far more bored than fatigued.

I thought I heard someone yell, “Get him!.” So I ran like I stole something.

The hardest thing for me in archery is to remain in the game.  During a 4-hour 100-mile bicycle race or a 5-hour 70.3-mile ½ Ironman, I can stay focused.  (The young professionals are much faster than those times.) During a marathon or ½ marathon focus isn’t an issue.  During a long archery tournament my mind becomes numb.

That lack of focus might be assisted by a PED.  Certainly, those early end jitters would be reduced.  But, it is better to be fit and get through an event without the aid of a hypertension support medication. It is even better not to have high blood pressure.

Want to get fit? Check with your doc before you run around the block.

A Beta-Blocker and Pot Use Bust at Vegas

Chris Perkins has been named 2018 Champion of the Vegas shoot. The 2018 Vegas shoot has long passed. The prior champion was busted for using a beta-blocker during competition and the USADA found THC in his tested samples.

THC, the active ingredient is marijuana is legal in some states. But, you can’t smoke dope and legally compete in WADA sports. At the first Olympics where snowboarding was introduced the men’s gold medalist was stripped of his award because he tested positive for pot. Looking back at that situation it comes as no surprise.

Pot is legal in 9 states and legal for medical us in another 30. In other states it is decriminalized or illegal. I don’t know where the busted Vegas ex-winner lives, but perhaps his home is in a puff free zone. Either way, smoking a joint isn’t going to improve shooting a bow. I think the THC ban by WADA and the USADA is a bit puritan, but don’t really care enough to make a big deal about it.

What I do care about is the use of beta-blockers. Beta-blockers can improve shooting. I’ve fussed about beta-blockers on this site in the past. For archers with conditions that require use of beta-blockers they can apply for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). For the archer that simply wants an edge beta-blockers are easily within grasp.

When I raced bicycles I can say with complete confidence I have trained with and raced against dopers. Sadly, in archery I can say with conditional confidence (no testing done to prove or disprove) I have competed against archers using a beta-blocker without a TUE.

https://www.thevegasshoot.com/news/perkins-named-2018-vegas-champion-following-disqualification-of-eyler

 

Old Geezer Speed Demons

Here in Georgia I’ve been getting in more cycling miles than I did in North Carolina. Partly, this is because all the roads are new. Partly because the roads are mainly rolling hills which is my favorite terrain to ride.

During my rides I’ve seen loads more riders than I did in North Carolina. There is rarely a day when I’m riding that I don’t see other riders. The riders here, the ones I’ve seen, are fast.

All of the riding and seeing other cyclists has sparked an old competitive cycling flame. That flame does not extend to criteriums or road races. Should I race a pure bicycle race it would be a time trial. The likelihood of a crash in lowest during a time trial compared to road races or crits. As a past triathlete I’m a pretty good time trial rider. As an archer I can’t afford a crash that could break a collarbone, arm, hand, or even having to deal with road rash. Heck, that simply applies to being alive. So, if I race it would be a time trial.

Having the cycling bug awakened I began looking for an individual time trial where I could race. I’m not ready to race. I could race but I am not in cycling race shape. If I entered a time trial right now I would not win even in my age group. I knew that before I started checking current race results. I check what the current race times are for riders in my age group for individual time trials.

The race results I read pretty much squashed any consideration I’d had of enrolling into a cycling time trial. The finish times were just too incredible. While it hasn’t been that long since I raced those races where triathlons and duathlons. In both I’d competed in world championships and had twice been selected to represent the USA as a Team athlete. As fast as I thought I was there is no way I could compete with the times I discovered.

The times I read for older riders were absolutely amazing. The top riders are faster than some Professional Triathletes! Some of them, over similar distances would have ranked with Professional men cyclists at races like the Tour of France and the Tour of Italy. It was truly incredible. It seems old guys have gotten really fast.

What’s more impressive is that as we age we lose lung volume. The means that older riders won’t have the same vital capacity, lung volume, or ability to flush CO2 from there bodies and bring in oxygen as well as younger riders. One older rider that caught my eye was able to complete a time trial (30K) nearly as fast as the winner of a Professional time trial (30K). In fact, this older rider would have beaten many of the professionals in the comparable event.

I then checked the times of some of my old racing buddies to see if they had found this fountain of youth that kept them fast as they were during their true glory days. A number of them had been on an Olympic Team and they never stopped racing. So, those fellows should be smashing the times of the older amateurs that picked up competitive cycling after they retired.

Nope! The newly minted old geezer cyclists would kick the ex-Olympians butts. I know the current old geezers would bet me – I was never as fast as these monster old guy cyclists.

I suppose this new breed of old guy time trialists are remarkable athletes. It would have been hard to imagine a guy in his mid-60’s cranking out speeds faster than professional triathletes and in some cases profession men cyclists had I not read the results.

The question comes to mind, “How is this possible?”

Under normal physiological processes I don’t believe the times represent the entire picture. For example, I know that human growth hormone can lead to improvement in lung volume among older mean. I know that testosterone can improve training and EPO can improve races results. Certainly, the old fellows racing for fun wouldn’t be using PEDs to win races against other old guys out for a fun day of bicycle races. Seriously, do all that (cheating) for a First Place the award is a $2.00 medal.

At some point I may still look for a bicycle time trial to race. But, it will be for fun.

Here me now, believe me later references:

https://www.ijdp.org/article/S0955-3959(17)30140-8/pdf

http://www.velonews.com/2016/06/feature/totally-amateur_408457

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4659343/

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jun/01/dope-and-glory-the-rise-of-cheating-in-amateur-sport

Getting the Dope On

I am not new to international sport competition. I have a medical background (PhD). I am fairly new to archery.

For decades I competed as a junior, senior and an age grouper in running, cycling and triathlon. I was pretty good on a local and regional level in the US. I’ve gotten on the podium a few times at National events and earned a place on the USA Team for the World Championship Long Course Duathlon.

I did okay racing in the smaller events in Europe. I have trained or raced in: England, Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Israel, Australia, and Japan. Racing, however, is not the sole area my interest in sports and health.

I have published a good many peer-reviewed medical manuscripts most on medical aliments, some on sports physiology. I was on faculty at a major medical school where I did much of my research. I’ve also given medical presentations of my academic work in those same countries where I’ve trained or raced. After over four decades of sports competition and medical research I have gotten pretty good at spotting dopers. (I have never pointed anyone out I suspected. Although, some I suspected in cycling and triathlon did get caught.)

In age group competition, the doping is bad. In archery is seems worse than other sports among age groupers. I understand that banned substances may be necessary for the well being of many age groupers. However, it does give them, what I consider, an unfair edge in archery.

Being athletic is good. Shooting a bow isn’t all that phyically demanding compared to competing in an Ironman or running a marathon.  Archery requires a different kind of skill.  Still, archery practice combined with a program to improve physical fitness will benefit an athlete.

It isn’t easy to remain fit for a lifetime.  It is less easy to be an athlete.  It becomes increasing hard for amateur athletes and professionals where income from sport do not provide a living wage.  For them work gets in the middle of the day meaning training becomes more of a scheduling trick. It is possible.  Athletes that take on the extra effort to remain fit enough to reach a podium without banned supplements shouldn’t be, in addition to their work, put into a position where they must surpass other athletes unwilling or unable to adapt a total fitness program.

Some age group archers that are not physically fit yet practice consistently have an advantage over athletes who shoot and combine healthy life choices with competition. The poorly conditioned archery age grouper that is able to consistently practice shooting can have the competitive advantage of drugs used to compensate for high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.  Those drugs assist both the patient’s condition and shooter’s ability. As such they do not need to approach archery as a complete athletic process. Rather, they can practice with their bow, be in miserable overall fitness (non-athletic) and have the advantage during competition of their prescribed drugs.

Individuals that are on beta-blockers may be able to receive a therapeutic use exemption (TUE).  In many cases, beta-blocker use might be reduced or eliminated through healthy choices and exercise.

Dr. Sheps of the Mayo Clinic writes:

If you’re overweight, losing even 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) can lower your blood pressure. As you slim down, it may be possible to reduce your dose of blood pressure medication — or stop taking your blood pressure medication completely. Don’t make changes to your blood pressure medication on your own, however. Do so only after getting your doctor’s OK.

Remember, high blood pressure isn’t a problem you can treat and then ignore. Even if you’re able to stop taking blood pressure medication, it’s still important to maintain healthy habits. Here’s how:

  • Eat a healthy diet — the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is an effective eating plan for lowering blood pressure.
  • Get 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Schedule regular checkups with your doctor to make sure you’re keeping your blood pressure in check. (1)

Being new to archery I have found it frustrating to train hard and enter an event on an unleveled playing field. Shooters are clean or they or not. If an age grouper is taking a beta-blocker at a minimum they should have a TUE. But, so long as USA Archery allows the unchecked use of beta-blockers by age-groupers during competitions it is not promoting the overall health of the sport.

I doubt that USA Archery is going to put much effort into screening age groupers using banned substances without a TUE.  For age groupers that are fitness focused they need to shoot well to win knowing that similarly trained unfit archers talking prescription drugs have an edge.

From USADA and applies to WADA:(2)

Substances Prohibited in Particular Sports

Some sports have additional rules about the use of beta-blockers. If participating in any of the following sports, please consult the current WADA Prohibited List or Global Drug Reference Online (GlobalDRO.com) before using beta-blockers.

P1. Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers (including, but not limited to atenolol, bisoprolol, carvedilol, esmolol, labetalol, metoprolol, propranolol, sotalol, and timolol) are prohibited for the following sports:

  • Prohibited At All Times (in-competition and out-of-competition): Archery, Shooting
  • Prohibited In-Competition Only: Automobile, Billiards, Darts, Golf, Skiing/Snowboarding in ski jumping, freestyle aerials/halfpipe and
  • snowboard halfpipe/big air, and Underwater Sports as specified.

References:

1.) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure-medication/faq-20058056

2.)

Athlete Guide to the 2018 Prohibited List

PED Use in Masters’ Athletics

In a few months, if all goes well and the creek don’t rise; I’m racing in a national championship. That race happens after two national archery championships. It is going to be a busy spring.

Getting ready for all three championships takes a lot of effort. It’s not more work  it comes to time spent training. It is how that time is spent.

The least amount of training changes is with archery. That said, the intensity of archery practice has changed, as has the focus during the training. To win (or place well) I know the scores needed to be achieved. Knowing the must hit scores goals can be established.

In the endurance race I know the distance and the speed required to win. This translates to much more speed work and intervals during training.

Before preparing a “speed” plan I started by studying the times recorded at the 2015 – 2017 championships. Seems many of the masters age group competitors have gotten really really fast.  The review of those results recorded  by many Masters athletes appeared artificially enhanced.

You might think, “Who in their right mind would use performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)?” The answer is many with some estimates of dopers is as high as 25%. Here’s how it’s done:

An athlete in his 40s (for example) finds that he is naturally slowing down. To retain or in some cases increase speed they may take PEDs.  This is accomplished with the help of an innocent physician. (Generalized approach)

On a doctor’s visit the mature athlete complains of low stamina, loss of energy, diminished libido and feeling fatigued. The athletes’ blood work is fine other than his natural testosterone being low compared to a 20 year old. This may warrant to a prescription for testosterone. A bonus is they may end up getting human growth hormone (HGH) as well. Want to drop your natural testosterone to help with the doctor’s blood assay? Easy. Train harder than usual, stay indoors, and reduce sleep time.

After the doper gets the PEDs he may seek out an EPO boost or take a less risky and legal pathway of drinking an abundance of beetroot juice (legal works to some degree). Both help with oxygen uptake and utilization.

What a shame.

From an aging point of view HGH has limited, if any, negative effect and can be of tremendous value men over 40. I strongly believe HGH should be removed from the banned list for athletes over 40. Overall, PED use is widespread among age group endurance athletes.

In archery, we have another set of dopers, the beta-blocker users. Beta-blockers aren’t like the PEDs of other sports. A beta-blocker will not make one faster. It also will not make an archer shoot better. It will however help the archer to not shoot worse.

The issue here is (despite it being banned) is that the older archers on beta-blockers need the drug’s help to stay alive. So, know this – that archer on a beta-blocker may not shoot better thanks to the drug, he just won’t shoot any worse. Beta-blockers will calm and steady the performer. When it comes down to it, if you shoot the X 96% of the time and the beta-blocker hits the X 89% of the time you still win. That is unless you freak out during competition in which case a beta-blocker would be beneficial to you.

There is some suggestion that beta-blockers may offer a slight improvement in scoring.  Suppose, for argument, that an archer using a beta-blocker gets a 1% benefit from the calming and stabilizing effect of the drug. That archer typically can shoot with a 96% accuracy.  That beta-blocker archer that normally scores around 96% accuracy as do non-beta-blocker archers, a 1% advantage wins the day. Meaning the beta-blocker reaches 97% accuracy.

So, do you think archery isn’t really that bad? If so, you’d be wrong.  Among the druggiest Olympic sports archery ranks 10th, tied with pistol. Do I have any doubt that I’ve shot against archers on beta-blocker? None whatsoever.

In the case of the endurance athlete doping, even though both situations are banned, I see the endurance athlete as the greater cheater. Really, if you are on a beta-blocker to support your heart or manage your high blood pressure and compete keep taking your drug. I’d rather shoot against you on your meds than have you risk your health in order to enjoy archery. If you have a pill box with beta-blockers used exclusively for tournaments  you are an ass. If you are getting injections of testosterone under the pretext of a needed prescription you are a deliberate cheater. It pisses me off to race against you.

Here’s the thing – of the older dopers I’ve raced against or trained with everyone around them guessed they were doping.  I only know of one age group athlete, an Ironman World Champion, that was ever caught for doping.  By contrast, of the young dopers (all cyclists) everyone suspected all were caught.

Who do I partly blame for the widespread use, aside from the dopers themselves, of doping among Masters level athletes are WADA and the USADA. Both are more interested in tracking the younger athletes that are making a living in their sport as professional athletes.  That is, of course, where the money is so they chase the money.  So long as Masters athletes receive so little sponsorship money and recognition WADA and USADA will turn a blind eye. No one really seems to care a lot aside from the clean athletes that are considered Masters.

Once companies like Nike and Asics understand the marketing value of clean Masters athletes WADA and the USADA will have new targets. Until that time dopers among age groupers have little to fear.

Reading list [(Hear me now believe me later)credit to Hanz and Franz of SNL]

https://www.thefix.com/content/olympics-london-drugs-doping90411

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/other/older-athletes-now-testing-positive-for-peds/article_dc9828c3-a4d1-5180-be18-1e5fabc071ae.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doping_in_sport

Steroids and Amateur Athletes

PEDs for the Tactical Athlete – Follow Up