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]

Steroids and Amateur Athletes

PEDs for the Tactical Athlete – Follow Up

Target Panic

I’ve read from many archers that they get target panic. Panic is a dramatic word. When I was in clinical practice panic was never an option. I’ve never experienced panic. I literally grew up in a clinical environment beginning a long medical career at age 15. So, panic is blunted for me.

I think an archer’s target panic is similar to stage fright. Stage fright is another problem from which I don’t suffer. During my medical career I gave 121 invited lectures. Many of them based on my research. Believe me, you don’t just stand up and talk. At the end of a presentation the audience fires questions at you. The more confident you appear the more questions you get. Medical audiences are attuned to a nervous presenter and often let them off easy. I was so confident in my research I invited question to be shot at me at any point during a presentation. But, before I stood up in front of an audience, I’d had decades of preparation.

At one lecture I did in Augusta, Georgia, the night of the presentation a tropical storm hit. The weather was bad with pounding rain and wind. The venue for the lecture was in a hall above a restaurant and bar, B.F. Hippplewhite’s.

The sponsor of the lecture, the talk provided Continuing Educational Units, supplied refreshments that included light food, beer and wine. The lecture started at 7:00 PM. By 7:10 only five people had braved the storm. At 7:20 everyone assumed that was going to be the total audience, all of whom knew my talk and had come for the free beer. So, we all started doing our best to put a dent in beer supplied for 50 people.

At 7:50 PM there were 30 people and six of them, including the speaker, were half lit. Well, the show must go on, so I started the talk. I can’t say if it was one of my best, it was up there, but it was without compare the most fun. My now drunk friends were firing question, debating, and yelling counterpoints. During my talk I took a bio-break to deposit some of the beer I’d consumed and returned in time to calm two PhD’s from what appeared to be a Nerd fight stemming from the use of inverse ratio ventilation treatment for iatrogenic lung injury. It was splendid and totally panic-free. Still, I do not recommend the combination of alcoholic libation and archery.

I’d never heard of any kind of panic in sports until I began shooting a bow. The first time I heard the term target panic I was surprised, but I didn’t panic. I don’t believe I have ever experienced panic in any form, much less panicking while shooting an arrow.

Shooting an arrow is easy. Shooting it and hitting the X less easy. Either way, there’s no reason to panic.

Getting nervous is another matter. My first archery competition I was real nervous. Not over shooting the target as much as not being clear on tournament protocol. That was the Virginia State 18-Meter Indoor tournament in February of 2014. I’d only had a bow for a few months and had taken three lessons. But, the coach I had at that time felt I could be competitive and encouraged me to go. Like a fool, I listened.

I went and explained to the folks at the registration desk, the judges, and the archers around me that I was truly a novice. I was so unfamiliar with the sport I shot a bow set-up with a short stabilizer and pins. I couldn’t see the pins because the lighting was so bad. But, I never missed the target. I finished 4th and remained panic-free. There was no room for panic or even the thought of it – I was too busy watching everyone else trying to figure out what to do. It was also the first time I’d seen a long stabilizer.

While I don’t panic I do get lazy and sloppy. I’ll sometimes rush a shot rather than let down. Letting down is under-rated. I’ll sometimes hope to get lucky rather than letting down and starting over – the purest form of lazy. I seldom get lucky. Sadly, I sometimes do get lucky and hit an X when I should have let down, which makes this bad habit harder to kick.

I think the best way to avoid nervous energy before a competition is to recognize you are going to be nervous for the first few shots. Then remind yourself that you’ve practice this shot thousands of times. And, of course, you’ll hit the X because you’ve done so thousands of times before. In my case, I’ve hit the X 3579 times since 2014 excluding 3D.  I know this because I record my practice and competitive scores. For 3D I don’t keep an X count. It’s too much data to work through with 11 or 12 as an X, depending on ASA or IBO scoring, the variance in yardage and the occasional 14.

So, now when I go to a tournament, I know I‘ll hit the X. Maybe not as often as I want but as often as my current level of training supports.  It is not such a big deal.

No, I don’t hit the X 100% of the time. Right now, more like 40% of the time on a 3-spot and 83% of the time on a 5-spot (on average). As such, there is no reason to panic or even get nervous. Seriously, my greatest competitive anxiety comes from: how long is this tournament going to last and where’s the bath room. I mean to say, how can these folks, the judges, competitors that can’t add scores properly (myself included), or can’t pull arrows between ends, slow this event to a pace that makes my ears want to bleed and why is the bathroom a kilometer away. In any circumstance – there’s no need to panic.

“Just put the dot in the middle and shoot the dot,” as suggested by Reo Wilde.