Monday, May 11, 2009

Steroids and Athletes...More Common than We Think?


Since the MLB's Ramirez was suspended for testing positive for steroids last week tennis star, Richard Gasquet has been suspended from play for testing positive for cocaine use. What's going on here? Why are drug and steroid use becoming more and more common? ORRRR is it just as common as it was in BEN JOHNSONS days as a sprinter but now that technology is advancing we are just better at detecting it? When the Olympics were in Greece the home countries two main medal hopefuls pulled out of the games and missed drug tests because they knew that their use would be detected. We definitely will never forget the German Women's swim team all looking like men can we.

One of the most talked about scandles in history was the positive test at the Seoul Olympics by now disgraced "CHEETAH" Ben Johnson. The drug that Ben had tested positive for was Stanozolol. This drug is an anabolic steroid that is derived by the male hormone testosterone. This drug is famous for causing you to build muscle and lose fat. In Ben's case this makes sense. This is because The stronger and leaner a sprinter is the faster he will be. If a sprinter can produce great power but stay light they will be faster...hence how Ben easily achieved the "fastest man in the world title." He was eventually stripped of his medal, which was then handed over the his 2nd place competetor and long time rival Carl Lewis. Who has also been linked to using steroids at the same time as Ben. Carl however, still has the gold medal from Seoul.

Ben and his coach Charlie Francis denied the use of this drug to the bitter end. It made sense, because according to Ben's Training partler Angella Taylor Issajenko it wasn't just Ben using the drug. Every sprinter in the world seemed to be using it just to stay competitive, apparently without it you would never reach a world competetive level. It was Angellas confessions that made such an impact at the Dublin Inquiry. You can read about her personal accounts about Ben and her training and drug use in her biography Running Risks. Also for an interesting read related to Ben is the book Speed Trap by Charlie Francis his coach. The book is no longer in publication but I managed to snag my copy from AMAZON.

After doing my research on Ben for various reasons which include, my love and passion for the sport of track and field, my Kinesiology background and interest in drugs, to better sports for all, fair play and just general interest I am still unsure whether to consider Ben and disgrace to Canadian Sprinting or just another athlete in the crowd of thousands doing what everyone else was to succeed...what do you personally think?

Growing up I was a competitive track and field athlete as well as coach. I am currently a very high ranked coach in Canada, with an level 3 NCCP in Sprints as well as a new NCCP course Facilitator for level 1 and 2. I grew up in the times of Marion Jones domination. She was everything I wanted to be and more. She even went to my favorite University North Carolina. She was the perfect height and built for a sprinter, and to the outside viewer she trained harder than anyone. Little did all of her fans and supporters know she was also supplementing the hard training regime with the BALCO's cocktail mixes provided by the infamous Victor Conte.

What is/was BALCO you ask? Well, BALCO stands for the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operation. They have been linked to numerous athletes and their provision of drugs to these athletes. It all started with Marians old coach, Trevor Grahman. He confessed himself by calling into the USADA (the United States Anti Doping Agency) and giving names of athletes using steroids. Most were his very own athletes, and he confessed that it was BALCO and Victor Conte supplying them. The drug that BALCO is most famous for was nicknamed "THE CLEAR" because at that time it was undetectable through testing. The clear's real name is tetrahydrogestrinone better known as THG.
After a lot of investigation the IRS and the food and drug administration along with a narcotics task force got warrants to seach the BALCO facilities and to raid a trainer that was affiliated with BALCO and the MLB player who held home run records Barry Bonds. At Anderson's house they found steroids and also $60,000 in cash as well as evidence with athletes names lists and dosage plans were found.
According to Wikipedia the athletes with affiliation to these lists and BALCO were:
After the raid the case went to trial. Conte and Anderson both went to jail for their involvement in the scandle. Also Marians former coach Trevor Graham was convicted by a federal jury and put on house arrest.

Up to that point Marion continued to deny her involvement with Trevor, BALCO etc. It was almost too obvious to the public, her ex husband CJ Hunter tested positive, her coach admited to his involvement, all her former training partners along with the father of her baby Tim Montgomery.

Finally in October of 2007 Marion admitted to her use of steroids, and that she had lied to press and in court about her use and the link to BALCO. She then retired quite quickly from the track. The USDA also concluded that she was to give back all of her medals. They took away her results, records, points and prize money from Sept of 2000. She was then sentenced to 6 months in Jail.
Brooks Johnson, the famous track and field coach based out of The Disney World of Sports in Orlando has been quoted when asked about Marion Jones

"I don't think people realize the real tragedy of Marion Jones. There are certain people who have star power within their sport. And when they retire, that goes with them. And there are some people who transcend the superstar status within their sport and become celebrities. Marion Jones had that quality about her, and she could have done it clean. She could have gotten enough medals clean that would have put her in the public spotlight, and she could have used that to catapult herself into celebrity status. She has a gift. So the tragedy is that it was so unnecessary."

My question is with all the evidence against her why would she still lie about her use? I guess it was pride or the pure desire of every athlete to be the best no matter what the consequences. I guess she just wanted to get away with it. I almost want to cry when I write about this because her accomplishments had meant so much to me and I had such a desire to be just like her. What a let down.

You can read more in depth about the BALCO scandal in the book: GAME OF SHADOWS. It discusses not only sprinters involved, but MLB and other athletes that BALCO was involved with in depth and accounts confessions etc of athletes.

Marion Jones has gone on Oprah and the Today Show with nothing but remorse for her bad decisions. She want people to feel for her. Even though she lied. Now some people are calling her a hero. Really a hero again? Just because she now admits and takes responsibility for her wrong doing? I don't know if this makes her a hero in my books. You can read an article about it HERE....judge for yourself but never forget what she did, and the lies she told. I know I wont.

To this day unfortunately some of BALCO's cocktails are still on the market legally...I think the company should have totally folded but hey that's just my opinion. I recently purchased ZMA which is a combination of zinc aspartate, magnesium aspertate and vitamin(e) B6. It legally claims to increase strength levels. It's theory makes sense to me and I find it useful but I dislike supporting Victor Conte because of how he has ruined the enjoyment of sport for so many people. Arggggg....this world is so corrupt.

Is this a message that someone can get away with providing and distributing steroids as well as doing steroids? How does this effect our youth and steroid use among young athletes? Is this telling athletes that if they want to be a sports super hero they have to start using steroids to ever achieve that level?

One of my close personal friends Dwight Howard may only be 23 but he is built like SUPERMAN....literally the man stands 6"11 and is well over 200lbs. He is a dominating defensive monster with an offensive slam dunk has even been known to injury his teammates lol...however, he is the cleanest athlete I know. He is a devout Christian and gives so much back to his community. He is definitely a hero on many levels. He may look like an ox or a monster when on the court or in training but this man would never touch a alcohol let alone an anabolic steroid. However from the outside perspective his mesomorph body built could be perceived by some as only achievable through steroids.

To a young athlete looking up to Dwight he may think he needs to use anabolics to achieve Dwights success or physically fit body. So how do we know if an athlete has good genetics or is using anabolics and how do we get the youth to see and acknowledge this? I know Dwight has worked hard to achieve his success in the NBA and he has never touched a drug, but some people from the outside don't see that sometimes with good old fashioned hard work it is still possible. Have athletes like Barry Bonds, Ramierz, Marion Jones, Ben Johnson etc ruined good hard, clean work ethics for every athlete or up and comer? How can we promote hard work and training without having to use anabolics? Can track and field ever be a respected sport again or will it always be judged as the steroid users sport. Jeez I wonder what kind of records would be achieved if we had leagues for just steroid users?

The only person that I know of in a huge position of power that is speaking up above the crowd over drug use, and not just about Olympic sports but in professional sports is a member of the IOC and Canada's own DICK POUND. Poud has been quoted many a times on calling out specific athletes for their use of drugs. These athletes include Floyd Landis the disgraced Tour de Frances cyclist that had his medal taken away, Walter Mayer, Lance Armstrong (who still denys his use of drugs). He also has attacked the NHL and PGA and how they should test for drugs.

But why is Dick Pound the only person in power speaking up and slamming athletes and organizations for their use of drugs and lack of testing? Why aren't there more people of power speaking up. Maybe with the USA's new president OBAMA being such a sports fan will eventually speak up on drug use and anabolic abuse in sports....HERE's to HOPING!

Stand for something before someone stands on you. ~Michael Port

Links:
-
Former Olympian Tyree Washingtons KILLAROID cause
- Steroid Nation
- For everything about steroids and their history STEROID.COM

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