An excellent series in SI:
Steroids in America: The Real Dope
In a recent discussion about the pervasive use of anything and everything to modify one's body for looks, strength, speed, muscle mass and notional ideals of beauty, My Beloved likened human culture to a vast organism, and various groups that have long been using PEDs; athletes, actors, transgendered people, performers, rappers, and now it seems Baby Boomers who do not want to grow old, the testing mechanisms for the validity of body modification's role or place in society.
Homeostasis is the norm for a system so change agents introduced to it will be controversial and fought against. This is healthy so that new things can be tested and re-tested before being incorporated as the new default.
I totally support anything that shines a light on the topic of PEDs and allows for healthy discourse. I think criminalizing substances before there is full medical knowledge about their effects is short-sighted, stifles research, spreads misinformation and harms society.
Unfortunately, we have gone that route in the US and in doing so we have pushed these easily obtainable substances underground, crippling our ability to grapple with their pervasiveness in so many areas of our culture and sent the wrong message to young people.
However, PEDs have no place in sport. They do, however, have legitimacy as medical treatment and for rehab and we need more clarity to draw firm lines between injury treatment and performance enhancement.
I don't buy the argument that, since everyone does it, make it legal because the whole point of sport is that there are rules that govern play. In turn, each professional association has rules that govern participants' behavior and not one has decided PEDs are allowable. Nor will they ever. No rules equals no sports. You just end up with a pharmaceutical free-for-all arms race that will be unwatchable and unsustainable.
In the Tennis.com blog by Pete Bodo, he talked about a recent quote from a retiring player that accused the tennis establishment of hypocrisy because PEDs were known to be used in professional tennis.
I disagree with one statement in Pete's post and one statement that Kamakshi Tandon made in Steve Tignor's tennis blog, Concrete Elbow.
Pete said that players would tell on each other because it's like taking food off your plate (not to). I think you need to go deeper into that and realize that if you blow the lid off you may first be harming the sport, thereby decreasing the advertising dollars and your own potential prize money. I think the hypocrisy Rochus mentioned is that he believes there's been willful inaction on the part of the professional associations so as not to taint the sport and lose money.
They're caught in a trap of their own making without more transparency, as advocated by many in the tennis.com forum.
Kamakshi mentioned the tennis loner culture, lack of sophistication and lack of access to be barriers to a systemic problem with PEDs in tennis.
Without consistent off-season blood testing for HGH, this statement is simply not credible.
On WADA's website, there is information about Canadian HGH testing of a university football team. Of the 62 players tested, 9 came back positive for a banned substance, *but* they mostly tested for steroids with urine kits. Of the 20 blood samples tested for HGH, 1 came back positive. The HGH test kits used can only detect it if injected in the last 24-36 hours.
There's a good chance that many of the players sampled *thought* they bought HGH through the internet, but ended up with something else. So I believe that the 1 of 20 positive for HGH would be much higher but with no controls, and limited test efficacy because of timing, there's no way to know.
This is a podunk university in Canada that has probably never sent anyone to the NFL, maybe Canadian league or Europe and the school had to suspend the entire football program for one year because it was so tainted.
The HGH kits used in Canada cost about $1,200 and can be used for 12 samples. The problem with tennis and all other off-season testing is mainly logistics which drive up cost.
Players associations in pro football in the US and pro baseball say they're open to HGH testing, but claim that collective bargaining by the players unions make it difficult to contractually agree and enforce the testing and its consequences.
I think tennis should take the lead on the issue, clarify medical treatment use, and then for the next 2 years test the Top 100 in the ATP and WTA at least 2 times each for HGH in the off-season and enact a permanent ban for a positive test. 4 missed tests equal a positive test with permanent banning the consequence. Random testing after the first 2 years for all players in the top 250.
It sounds harsh, but that's the quickest way to chase away any clouds, clean up the sport (if it needs it) and send a strong message to anyone contemplating using PEDs on their way up.
The consequence has to off-set the reward to sufficiently deter use. And the testing has to be robust and transparent. This is not that hard to coordinate, especially since the player's have to provide 1 hour out of each 24 where they will be available, for a full year.
It *is* very intrusive, but there is so much at stake, that everyone who makes a living from the sport should put up with it for a couple of years so a baseline of knowledge can be taken.
Right now there are too many unknowns for anyone who follows the sport to say with confidence that PEDs are not a problem. Human nature being what it is, there will always be people looking for an edge and no horror stories about long-term consequences will deter them. There are many motives, too, and money is just one of them. I think Ego is even a stronger motivation than money.
We can't control the pervasiveness of the very human desire to be stronger, faster, more ripped, have more energy, maximize performance, rid ourselves of aches, pains and injuries, but we can as a society say that taking PEDs in sports is cheating and will not be tolerated.
There should be no debate about finding out how widespread PEDs usage is in tennis and the only way to do that is to do blood testing in the off-season based on the tournament scheduling of each player. There are known protocols for effective doping and the random testing can take that into account.
HGH is commonly used with just enough testosterone to stay under acceptable levels per WADA rules. There is open PED doping in our society which can be seen by anyone whose eyes are not squeezed shut. Wayne Odesnik is comfortable buying HGH off the internet and carrying it through customs. The ITF has to stop making excuses about the issues with the test. The only acceptable excuse is if the test had an unacceptable level of false positives. That is not the case.
ITF, what are you waiting for?
- Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport & Society