Eliminating Drugs in Sport: Our Zero Tolerance Policy
Throughout history, mankind as admired strength and muscularly fit physiques. As the 20th century emerged, weightlifting and related competitions became more formal and a growing focus on performance emerged. This led to many very positive improvements in areas such as training, diet and technique. And the records and other standards of performance continued to advance.
Unfortunately, one method that emerged for performance enhancement was the use pharmaceuticals. While drugs have done much good for civilization, they have also created a culture in which many people feel that drugs offer a quick fix for any malady – or a quick road to the top in sport. Instead of relying on proper diet, mental and physical activity, rest and stress management as the building blocks for good health, people often simply turn to drugs for symptom control. Similarly, instead of pursuing high performance levels in sport through training, diet and restoration, some athletes in all sports seek an advantage through the use of drugs. Whether they use anabolic steroids to build strength and muscle, diet drugs to reduce bodyweight and bodyfat, diuretics to shed water weight, or more exotic interventions for other effects, the view shared by many is as follows: a) you can get to the top faster and more easily with drugs, and, b) you can’t reach the top without drugs. Neither of these beliefs is true for several reasons.
First, there is the question of what is “the top”. Is it performance at the price of health? We think not. Strength, health, an aesthetic appearance and a longer life are all benefits that can be gained through proper diet and exercise. Drugs may vault you to a higher performance level in the short term, but at what price? Significant evidence exists regarding links between performance enhancing drugs and heart disease, cancer and a wide variety of other mental and physical problems. How can you become the best you can be when a drug is undermining your health? Gains in muscle strength and size can be attained and sustained through healthy diet and exercise, while overall health improves. That is really “the top”.
Even if you improve in the short term through the use of drugs, it becomes ever more likely each day that you will be caught and punished for you drug use. Whether you are caught law enforcement authorities while in possession of drugs such as anabolic steroids (a felony across the US), or by sports governing authorities (the USAW tests is top athletes without notice year round), your career is over (or at best severely set back) if and when you are caught. Why take the chance? And if you are an athlete who manages to escape detection during the year, what happens at a big event when you are tested? You can of course stop taking drugs before the event. But then you have to worry whether you stopped early enough, and contend with the mental stress of knowing that with every passing moment your advantage is declining. Is that the mental state you want to be in during competition?
Perhaps most importantly, a great part of the benefit that you receive from your careful training and dieting is the esteem you gain from knowing that you have modified your health habits in a positive way and that these interventions have led to a positive result. If, in contrast, you know that your gains have resulted from the use of a drug, you have lost this benefit. Further, when you come to rely on a drug for your performance, your confidence in training, diet and your own ability to succeed can be undermined.
For all of the above reasons and others, we oppose the use of drugs in sport. Many of the highest level athletes prove every day that you can succeed without drugs and be a healthy athlete at the same time. Why not join them?