’Roids All the Rage?

By Mike Warkentin

In Competition, Rest Day/Theory

October 29, 2013

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Former WADA head Dick Pound rejects claims sports have purged themselves of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

The Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commended Major League Baseball in August for cracking down on doping in the wake of suspensions handed out to some of the sport’s best-known players.

“The MLB has approached the matter in a professional manner throughout, and we look forward to maintaining our close relationship as we move forward in our efforts to protect clean athletes and advocate doping-free sport,” David Howman said in a release.

Shortly before the statement was published, and just before the Aug. 5 announcement of suspensions of Alex Rodriguez and a dozen other players related to the Biogenesis scandal, Christine Brennan of USA Today suggested the sanctions would be proof that the sports world is changing.

“When the news comes, we’ll mark the moment as an unprecedented turning point, as a game changer, as the time baseball finally got tough on doping after decades of avoidance and deceit,” Brennan wrote on July 31 in Brennan: Crackdown Shows Tide Has Turned on MLB Dopers.

Dick Pound, who was president of WADA from its inception in 1999 to 2007, wasn’t impressed. He certainly isn’t convinced baseball is clean.

“Have baseball players stopped using steroids or HGH or whatever else they’re using? Of course not,” Pound told the CrossFit Journal in an interview on Oct. 9 in Toronto, Canada.

With reporters saying the pro leagues are finally serious about cracking down on doping, Pound’s comments suggest high-profile sports aren’t any cleaner and aren’t even particularly interested in keeping drugs out of their athletes.

“I think they’re all at risk—every single sport,” he said.

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24 Comments on “’Roids All the Rage?”


wrote …

This is considered journalism?


wrote …

I can't believe his name is Dick Pound


wrote …

I hope that this is CrossFit doing what it does best. That is, looking at a problem from its very foundation and building up a systematic approach to it. We've seen HQ do this before with other issues such as the Affiliate Protection events that were prevalent last year.

What I don't understand about this article and the previous video posted with Dick Pound being interviewed is the perspective. Why is there no mention of CrossFit in either piece? I find it strange that the CrossFit Journal would start posting articles and videos about the problem of doping in sport without taking a very personal and introspective look at itself.

Is talking about the problem of doping and how it thrives in other sports absolving CrossFit of any wrong doing? Is profiling the wrong doers such as Lance Armstrong a sly attempt at moving the spotlight away from some CrossFit Games Competitors that we might be suspicious of?

Where is HQ going with this sudden Anti-Doping theme? I hope that they are building up to the creation of a program of some kind to start, as Dick Pound stated, talking about doping at the grass roots level and work to preventing its prevalence in CrossFit.


wrote …

CrossFit advocates a clean diet and healthy lifestyle approach. It is my hope that a true CrossFit Athlete at heart would not expose his or her body to performance enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, human nature is such that people, even elite athletes, may feel pressure to try the newest and best thing to get an advantage; thereby, using illegal compounded supplements. The science around performance enhancing drugs and supplements has become so advanced, cycling can be done to trick many sophisticated doping tests.
CrossFit is an open community and this is understandably a difficult topic. As the popularity of CrossFit grows, I would love to see CrossFit HQ's take on this challenge and post a follow up Journal article showing HQ's stance on performance enhancing drugs, including HGH, and how the Community of CF could expect to see changes or even be tested for such substances in the 2014 Games Season.


Jesse Gray wrote …

Great work! Talking honestly about issues like doping in sport is the first step towards a solution. As Crossfit grows as a professional sport there will need to be much more focus on PED use among elite athletes. If we've learned anything from literally every competitive sport played in the last 50 years, it's that people will absolutely use PEDs and often times they will persons that are "nice", "your heroes" and "not the kind of person who would do that sort of thing".

Additionally, where do we draw the line for PED use? Are we the kind of sport that needs to test out of competition? What should be allowed out of competition? One person may argue that using steroids and HGH in the offseason is totally unacceptable but not think that using a pre-workout supplement like Jacked 3D (the infamous amphetamine that has taken out more than one games competitor) is ok. Why is that? Both are considered just as bad by doping control agents but one you can buy legally at GNC so there's no stigma attached and potentially less performance increases. What about creatine? Many supplement and protein manufacturers that market specifically to crossfitters have this stuff all over the place but if we're using NCAA doping standards that is illegal. What if a person gets mononucleosis during the off season and his/her doc prescribes an anabolic steroid? Is that ok to use? It's helping that person recover from a disease, is that so much worse than a drug helping a person recover from a training injury?

Lots of questions but not a lot of answers, lets keep the discussion going!


wrote …

What about CrossFit? Oh wait, we are completely natural, I forgot. Those jacked guys and girls who have been training for a couple years hitting numbers that people who train twenty years can't hit, and who look like greek gods- that's all natural. They don't do anything but paleo and progenex, duh. 200 lbs of completely ripped muscle and put 350+ overhead all at 5'6"- guess I better just "train harder", and don't worry about recovery- I don't need steroids for that- I'll just roll my legs out on a rumble roller and buy K-Star's $100 book, then I'll be able to workout heavy as hell 5 times a day and only take a rest day once a year. Because Crossfit is natural and revolutionary...isn't it?


wrote …

What are the rules/guidelines for testing Cross Fit Athletes? I would think/hope that there is a 100% certainty that ALL GAMES ATHLETES are tested and re-tested throughout the year. My biggest love of cross fit: Integrity, high standards and accountabilities for all.

I participated in a "Masters" crossfit throwdown last year. I was convinced that two of my fellow competitors (in my age group) were using PED's. My attitude and outlook where affected by this. I WANT A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD! Since then, my attitude is one of hope and acceptance. I'll hope that these 'cheats' will be revealed, however, I will accept the fact that, what is, is. I'll just do my best and go with the outcomes. Throwdowns shouldn't be PED tested, however, games athletes should.

My hope is this: if any games athlete's test positive for PED's, they'll be outted and ousted from ANY CROSSFIT ACTIVITY!

I had an augment with a Dr. recently who was "certain that all crossfit games athletes are using PED's". I told him that there's too much INTEGRITY with top games crossfitters to cheat.


replied to comment from Ross Cairney

I must have missed that event where the 5'6", 200lb games athlete put 350 overhead. Bet it was awesome! At least put some facts with your complaint! Sounds like CNN...


replied to comment from Daniel Dragsten

Guesstimation my friend. Glad you liked the comment, I had fun writing it! But I'm pretty sure your(and mine) heroes Froning, Kalipa, Parker, Anderson, Bailey, (enter any top games athlete here), are all pushing their those specs, and their mere mortal limits, give or take an inch or pound- minus the odd balls like Bridges, Spealler, and Barto. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I love steroids just as much as the next guy. I don't want to watch people C&J 250lbs, I want to see monsters picking up cars and throwing them over houses (aka Klokov), but I definitely feel like the community can't be dumb enough to think that it can be done simply by eating grass-fed beef and pounding only the highest grade fish oil.


wrote …

I fail to see how an article that spends its entire body disparaging the efforts of pro sports to regulate doping, suddenly makes the logical leap to thinking that pro sports will become islands of integrity. The only mentions during the body to USADA, WADA, or the IOC are favorable--where they're doping controls are more strict than pro's--then all of a sudden comes to the conclusion that Olympic sports are failures and pro sports are beacons of hope?

C'mon now, no new arguments in the conclusion.

I also noticed that the CrossFit Games now state that athletes will be tested year-round. Will the testing be done by USADA/WADA?


wrote …

The controversy regarding PED's stems from the assumption that the athlete is harming their body with chemicals, thus sacrificing their future health, to extract extra performance (and income) today. This in turns pressures the competitors who don't want to risk their future but feel, without PED's, they can't compete. Given the advanced science of performance enhancement, I'm not sure I'm still buying this argument.
What's use vs. abuse? Low T anyone? Creatine anyone? CLA, caffeine, whey isolate anyone?
In motor sports, the Formula 1 governing body tried for years to outlaw computerized traction control (because it offended the purists) only to finally give up because everybody was cheating. The result is a more entertaining sport with cars that go faster and handle better and are ultimately safer. Would this apply to athletes/trainers if they weren't so busy trying not to get busted?
Why are we fighting this battle so ferociously anyway? Who's getting paid (a lot?) to catch the dopers? What's the motivation? This Pound fella sounds kinda culty. (As a CrossFitter I should know.)
The future is anything but certain, but Mark McGuire, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Ben Johnson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, etc., all seem pretty healthy for the nonce.


wrote …


I see this a bit different regarding the athletes. I really don't give a crap, rat's ass or any concern for the harm caused to the athlete. To me it's VERY black and white: Every 'crappy' thing we do in life has consequences. You cheat, you're going to pay the price sooner or later ( Mark McGuire, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Ben Johnson ,etc.,). These idiots are 'marked' for life....and this "everyone was doing it" crap is just that, CRAP. 12000 people jumped off bridges last year to their death....WELL?

Comparing this to Formula 1 is a bit of a stretch. I know that the guys wearing the Reebok Nanos have a huge advantage over me in the box (those idiots, who do they think they're fooling!) But here's the problem: I started wearing some new spiffy Nanos a while back and those same idiots are beating the crap out of me. I bet that if I started doping up (by the way I'm already way too dopey!) then I'd get new PR's and start beating those Nano-wearing girls......I mean guys!


replied to comment from mark whittington

I appreciate the sentiment and you're right, the athletes you refer to did break the established rules and should be labeled cheaters. But my argument of everybody doing it is not crap, its an opportunity to find out why.
What I'm getting at is, why all the rules and who are they for? I've been told time and again it's for the athletes own protection. They can't be trusted and must be regulated or they will sacrifice their future health. Pound says that despite the rules, there is PED ab/use on a massive scale. If the previous statements are true, where are the bodies?
Is use the same as abuse? If we did away with all this (ineffectual) testing would the athletes start dying mysterious deaths in their 50's and 60's? Or would we see what the human body is really capable of when we systematically combine (without fear of reprisal) genetically gifted individuals with modern science?
I remember the "Sick-Well-Fit" model of health shown at my Level 1 Cert. If we were to research what helps the Fit become Fitter would we find ways to help the Sick get Well?


wrote …

Where are the bodies? This article is about 7 European cyclists who died mysteriously between 2003 - 2004. Link is work/family safe:


A few key sentences:

"We have no idea how doping affects athletes, because we have no idea what they take, how much of it or for how long. They won't tell. Researchers won't run clinical trials because giving test subjects the amount of drugs believed to help performance would be unethical."

"That kind of cash will buy not only premium performance, but probably better precautions. Poorer people trying to get ahead in a sport won't have that luxury."


replied to comment from Todd Miller

Well, that answers my question about the body count (sorta) from PED's (at least in cycling). I feel for the athletes who paid the ultimate price trying to keep up with the likes of Armstrong.
I still feel the same about PED use. It's pervasive, underground, popular, ultimately unstoppable, and (probably) not nearly as dangerous as we've been led to believe.
As I look back on the futile alcohol prohibition of the 1920's and the shifting legal status of marijuana, I can't help but wonder what history will have to say about (the war on) PED's in another 100 years.


Well, "the bodies" are piling up in cycling primarily because of EPO and blood doping. PEDs that wouldn't necessarily help a Crossfitter very much. They are great for long time domain aerobic work because they increase the blood's capacity to carry oxygen. This can cause the blood to become too thick and lead to heart attack/cardiac arrest. With Crossfit there are very few events that a shot of EPO would give you much of an advantage (maybe the 1/2 marathon row?). I do think we could possibly have a body or two from amphetamines at some point.
Anyways, what's you point? If no one dies it's not bad? Or if no one has died then no one is using? Not sure what your thought was there, please clarify.


Jesse Gray wrote …

^^^ Ah, I see what you were saying in the context of the other comment.

Additionally to the women, Mithra, one of the big issues with "legalizing" PED use is that PEDs do not have the same effect on every person. If you were to allow even regulated use of PEDs you would be rewarding in many cases, athletes whose bodies respond best to drugs. You may also give an unfair advantage to athletes who can afford better Dr.s and drugs.


replied to comment from Jesse Gray

I disagree that EPO would not be a benefit. I think it would be a huge benefit. I'll use me as an example, and the relatively short workout Fran.

I suck at Fran. More specifically, it is the round of 21 thrusters that gets me. By rep 10 or 11, I've hit my lactic threshold. By rep 14 I'm going into oxygen debt. Each extra rep at this point is draining my ATP battery. I HAVE to recover, I can't keep going. The recovery takes precious seconds, and with Fran every second counts.

The common wisdom is that I need to get stronger, and this is true. However, I could also raise my aerobic capacity. If I can produce more power while staying aerobic, not going over my lactic threshold, then that would benefit my Fran time too.

If I was able to float through the round of 21 thrusters at 80-85% of my lactic threshold, then I won't tap into my ATP battery, and can save it for the shorter rounds.

EPO, since it increases the blood's capacity to carry oxygen, will help me increase my aerobic power output. This not only helps in long events, but also in short, intense efforts as well. Not only that, but I'll recover more quickly for the next workout.


replied to comment from Mithra Green

Mithra, I agree with you that PEDs are pervasive, popular, underground, and probably unstoppable. I've often felt that sports like cycling, weightlifting, track and field, and now Crossfit, should have "top fuel" divisions. Scientifically, we might learn a ton of valuable lessons from it that could benefit us all. Think of the automotive advances that have come from the highest levels of racing.

But, my fear is that these great sports would no longer be tests of the best athletes. Instead, they would be tests of the best drugs.


wrote …

The only way CF can level the playing field is with random drug testing of its top athletes by an outside agency, and leveling the playing field is really the primary concern. The most well know PEDs such as AAS (particularly non-C17 alpha alkylated) when used in low to moderate doses under medical supervision in otherwise healthy adults, in general does not pose a serious health risk (exceptions being kids, pregnant females, etc.). There are three things most people don't understand about many PEDs, 1) their health risks have and always will be grossly overstated, 2) their beneficial effects have been overstated (Lance Armstrong would beat most of his drugged competition even without drugs), and the real issue is cheating in sports. GH has little beneficial effect and is the most overrated PED on the planet, EPO has limitations, once your hematocrit gets into the 50's, blood viscosity works against you and coupled with dehydration can become a significant health concern. If you simply perform finger stick Hct at events and cap it at 50%, that pretty much solves that problem. BTW, testosterone and other AAS also increase blood Hb, that was one of their early uses before EPO, to treat anemia. Even if you test, use of some AAS particularly in women confer a lifelong advantage. A formerly juiced female will always carry more muscle, all else equal than one that has never juiced. The East Germans figured that out decades ago. Lastly, if CF includes endurance in its events (>10k events) that will in itself limit AAS use. People that look like genetically altered farm animals don't run well. Everyone likes to rant about PEDs, few understand what its all about. Get the facts from the scientific literature, not the media.


replied to comment from Todd Miller

"Top Fuel" division! Ha, I love it!


Jesse Gray wrote …

Todd, your understanding of EPO is off base. I don't want to get into semantics on PED use but if your Fran time is so long that EPO is going to make any kind of significant difference (cut it down from 30:00 to 29:30!) then you'd be much better off just working hard in the gym for a while!


wrote …

Can we please stop pretending that we care about PEDs in professional sports...please?

Chris Spealer's write up about the difference between training CrossFit and pursuit of the sport of CrossFit makes a great point. When you are competing at the most elite level, you are CHOOSING to make sacrifices to your lifestyle, long-term performance, and dietary intake that normal people can't or shouldn't do. Professional athletes ARE absolutely playing on a level playing field. They can all use PEDs to perform (temporarily) at the absolute peak of what is inhumanly possible. They are enhanced genetic freaks and no matter how hard you train and how much hgh you take, you and I will never achieve it. They are statistical anomalies, groomed from an early age.

Will they have bad knees and use a wheelchair to get around when they are 50? Probably. Do "we" care? No. I don't want to watch an NFL without 4sec 40 yd dash times, or a MLB without 100+ mph pitching. This article glosses over the fact that it's financially advantageous to everyone involved: player, team, owner, league, networks, etc. The only way to change this is to remove "winning" as the ultimate goal of professional sport.

...An NBA without a Finals, just a participation award ceremony...I'm sure the ratings would be great! The doped up Lance years were the zenith of pro cycling in terms of ratings and profitability.


wrote …

It can be done without PEDs - it's called genetics.

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