Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Doping: Would you do it?


I should probably start out this post by saying that I have never taken steroids, nor do I plan to.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d freebase cocaine powdered seal eyes if I thought that it’d help, but needles give me the heebie jeebies.  It’d probably help if seal eyes were blueberry flavor.

Source
Yesterday, elite runner Christian Hesch admitted to using “steroids” on and off for the last two years while competing in marathons and half marathons (as well as track races) around the country.  In fact, he most recently won the Rock and Roll Providence, RI race in 1:07 (Or, 67 minutes if you like) having ran a 4:00 mile just days before.  During the race he out kicked a few Kenyans and then had the douchey guts to do pushups prior to crossing the finish line.  Douche.

I used quotes around “steroids” because the drug that he used, Erythropoietin or EPO, actually just boosts red blood cell production. It’s normally a naturally occurring hormone that controls red blood cell production. Turns out, the more red blood cells you have the longer and harder you can push. (That’s what she said)  It’s also the same drug that is prolific in cycling and is what Lance Armstrong likely took for years and years.

Lance Armstrong really
bulked up lately
You can read all about his confession in this New York Times article as well as additional bits and pieces about how he snubbed his friend and senior Competitor.com editor here. Long story short, he’s been using it for a few years, has never been caught via a drug test, but someone found an empty vile in his bag and confronted him.

I sent the link to a friend who asked me a question that I had indeed thought of before: “Do you ever wonder how much taking EPO would help a normal runner like you or I?”  In short.....Yes, I do wonder that.

In the article it actually said that it wasn’t all that hard to get the drugs – a simple drive to Mexico was really all it took.  So, it isn’t about lack of availability as it is morals.  I’m 100% sure that I’d never take them to specifically make myself faster.  In fact, I said that I would likely not fully consider any super-downhill course a PR.  The guilt would get to me too much. Stupid morals....  But I really do wonder how much faster it would make me.  I mean, right now I run 7:00 min/miles for a marathon.  Would that drop me down to 6:00?  Or, would it be closer to 6:45/mile?

I certainly think that there is a certain "type" of runner that it would help.  The reality is that if you don't have the muscles, no amount of red blood cells are going to help you move your legs faster.  But, they will likely help you maintain the speed that you have already in your legs for longer periods of time.  Maybe?

So, would YOU ever consider it?  How much faster do you think it’d make a normal runner?


 

43 comments:

Sweet and Savory by Sarah said...

Sign me up. I've got nothing to lose. In all seriousness though, drugs in general creep me out. I would be interested in knowing how it would change my running life though....

Jeff Irvin said...

Adam, go download "The Secret Race". It is a tell all book by former USA Postal Team rider Tyler Hamilton.

It both a sad and fascinating read and pretty much tells the same story as the USADA report last week.

You'll be an expert on EPO by the end.

Kelly @ Running Kellometers said...

I agree with you that the guilt would just be too much for me. I wouldn't/couldn't consider it a possibility. It really is amazing the things people will do for money. It is obvious that Hesch was purely driven by the cash aspect of it--even in his confession. The sport of professional running has been plagued by so many doping incidents over the years, it is no wonder that some people don't take it seriously. Maybe this is a dumb question, but is EPO not detectable? If athletes are taking this, how is it not being found when drug testing? I'm all about putting in the hard work and people that try to take short cuts just infuriate me... Now that I'm all fired up, I think it is time for a run... :)

Jen said...

No. Never. Just like I wouldn't steal something from a store, cheat on my SATs in school -- it doesn't matter if you get caught or not - ethically I couldn't.

Of course as a 10 min. miler - what am I hoping for? top ten in my age group for a local 5K? It's not making or breaking me into Boston, for example.

But still. I can say without hesitation that it wouldn't be for me.

Kate said...

Nope. My running and biking is about me and seeing what *I* can (or can't) do. So why introduce something fake into it?

Taffi said...

I have enough issues with the fact that I have been trying out caffeine during races (given that I'm caffeine free in the rest of my day to day life).

Cheating is just plain cheating - whatever guff the sports 'stars' come up with to justify their behaviour. I'm also a bit peeved with the "well everyone was doing it and I was peer-pressured into it" type comments coming from some culprits.

Luis Fernando Oliveira said...

The fascist in my wants to tell you the steroids and EPO are very different drugs, but never mind, I get your point.

No I would not, given my current life and perspective, take any performance enhancing drugs. That being said, I can DEFINITELY empathize with a struggling pro faced with a hard decision and choosing the worst possible option.

So, if you ask me if I would do the same that Hesch did that would be a much tougher question. In all honesty? I really don't know.

Luis Fernando Oliveira said...

By the way, another interesting book, and perhaps one that we can all relate to somehow, is "The Doper Next Door", by Andrew Tilin. Check it out.

Running In Boise said...

If I was serious about competing, like elite or pro level, and everyone was doing it, and lots of money was involved, maybe. But really, I don't like any sort of medical procedure or medications that could have long term side effects. Taking alcohol and Ambien (not at the same time) have rough enough side effects and that is my medication limit.

hiker mom said...

I would never use them myself. But, I understand the pressure for professional athletes to use them. So many do, that it may feel hard to compete without that extra "help". I am always disappointed when another athlete comes out as a cheater. So sad and such a poor example they are setting. I am only an 8 minute miler so I don't think steroids would help me be a "winner".

Emily H said...

Sure, I would if there were no side effects. The runner still does the work.

In order to perform well athletes keep a healthy diet. Loading up on carbs the night before a race injects a bunch of nice chemicals into your body. What's so different about consuming a synthetic chemical vs the ones we just happen to find in food?

Nelly said...

It seems like the tour de france riders have no qualms about taking substances to compete with the best of the best. I feel like recently the sport is starting to become more clean, because the superhuman efforts that took place in the past on some stages don't seem to happen anymore. The way that stages are won are through hard sustained efforts.

I'm with you that I'd be curious as to how much my performance would improve with drugs. But I could never take something because I'd feel guilty about it, and I'd be nervous about the side affects.

Though I always wonder when I watch sports how many guys are taking something. Should they allow professional athletes to take anything they want? My view on that in general is no - because the side effects are generally not good for the body, so athletes would likely die early, and lawsuits would probably occur from the athletes dying early. And for someone who doesn't want to take drugs would be at a disadvantage.

Anonymous said...

I would never take anything if I was competing in a race to actually win. However, as it is right now, I just run because I love it and I love seeing my times improve. If there were no side effects and no one to cheat out of getting recognition and/or a prize, I wouldn't see anything wrong with it.

Pat said...

I say the sports governing bodies have no right to say what you put in your body. Let the athletes do whatever makes them the best. Whos to say taking steriods is more wrong than putting a cadavers legimate in your pitching arm.

As for me, I think not eating fast food would be a bigger benefit that more red blood cells.

There was an article about a cyclist/journalist that took steroids just to see his improvement. He did well. I think it was in Outside Magazine.

Gracie said...

I'm not even slightly interested in how banned substances would improve my running. What I want to see is how I can improve my running!

concretencoffee.com said...

Nah, probably not. I'm scared of drugs. Plus, I think there is still a good level of training these athletes have that is far more than I would ever consider trying to tackle. Granted, doping is stupid, but when every split second counts, I can see the lure it holds for some.

Sue's Ramblings said...

Nope and I even try not to take OTC or prescription meds or drugs unless I absolutely have to. I can understand why the elites do it - there'as just so much at stake for them. Sad but it's a reality.

Laura said...

You'd think with me being the slowest runner around I'd be a prime candidate but in the end it is cheating.
But...being realistic..I think there is way more doping out there than we even have a clue about.
Sad.

Runner Dad said...

I'm a purist I guess when it comes to athletics, so I definitely wouldn't "juice" as it were...nor do I condone the use by anyone else. Takes away from the purity of the sport.

Maggie Wolff said...

I wouldn't. But I'm the type of person who likes to challenge myself, and see how far I can go (or how fast) on my own hard work. I'm competitive with myself. And that applies to more than just my running.

Jamoosh said...

Steroids are old news. DNA doping is the latest thing. Personally though, I am scared just putting medicine in my body to get rid of the flu.

Jess said...

I don't know if the question translates appropriatley for all of us since we're recreational runners. Running is our hobby, not our job. For pro athletes, the pressures of performance are much greater so they're dilemma is a different one from ours.

{lifeasa}RunningMom said...

No way. In my mind it would be cheating fair and square. I even debating letting my husband carry our water bottle when we raced the marathon together. And yes, I let him mainly because I didn't think my sense of "toughness and I can do it myself" was worth hurting his sense of "I want to do this for my wife". But that is far as I am going with assistance! The rest, I do on my own!

gene @boutdrz said...

seems to me that there are already so many LEGAL performance enhancers around, why not just legalize EPO? what's that you say? you want an example? ok.
Contact Lenses/Glasses are a performance enhancer.
Insulin is a performance enhancer.
Tylenol/Acetaminophen is a performance enhancer.
NO? ok, those of you who wear glasses...next time you play your sport, leave the corrective lenses at home. Same with the other things i mentioned.
Here's another twist: what if CAFFEINE were banned. yep. cuppa Joe enhances my afternoon performance at work.
Let's eliminate the cause, and not the symptom.

Renee said...

No. Im too selfish & dont like sharing my hard work with anyone/anything. Its why Im losing weight on my own...not with help from Weight Watchers or Slim Fast. I like being able to say that I did it...all.on.my.own.

I also have enough other guilts in my life...Mommy Guilt because Im not always perfect. Catholic guilt, because you cant be Catholic without feeling guilty about everything....so I dont need blood doping guilt too! Lololol.

51feetunder said...

In the article he maintains that he never competed while using EPO, he only used it for recovery enhancement and during training. “Maybe this is my cue to walk away, but I’m real tempted to make a real clear point that I can and have run all those times perfectly clean. It’s not that difficult to run these times, and it doesn’t take any outside help.”

51feetunder said...

Why not have 2 classes of sport; clean and open? Develop ridiculously stringent testing regimes for the "Clean" class, and let the "Open" athletes inject paint-thinner while plowing through a bong load. Do it, don't it, it'd be up to the athlete. At the very least it'd be interesting to watch the fallout.

Courtenay said...

I'm going to confess right here that one time I ran a local race coming off a sinus infection that required 2 trips to urgent care and the doc putting me on a prednisone steroid pill to "blow open" my sinuses. I ran like a mo fo and had boundless energy. Hey...maybe it was all psychological, because I have absolutely no idea if oral prednisone would even do anything like that. But it sure made me an insomniac and I had one of the best races of my life. But I honestly felt guilty running it the whole time. But it did not result in a PR.

TNTcoach Ken said...

I've been taking de-enhancers for years but I've never had a drink at the start line. Oh wait, there was that New Year's Eve race.. Nevermind.........

Trent (Scott) Lorcher said...

I have five kids. There's no way I'd risk my health or reputation for a faster run time. That being said, it is tempting.

pensive pumpkin said...

I don't mind needles, and intend to spend my retirement as a heroin addict. What? Most elderly people in this country seem to end up addicted to something, and I want mine to be fun and make me skinny.

But, performance enhancing drugs? That's just crazy talk. I won't even put down the cupcakes to get faster. Hence this not being an issue. Drugs might only get me to the middle of the pack.

Char said...

I ran a half marathon last weekend on Valium (diazepam) but that's not performance enhancing. I was actually wondering if I might end up curled up in a little ball at the side of the road to have a nap. Wouldn't do the steroid thing though, I have enough testosterone in my household.

Jason said...

Hell to tha no. Just eat clean, train hard, and go with your God-given talent. At the end of the day, you can sleep in peace knowing you are an honest athlete.

Half-Crazed Runner said...

I could never put something in my body that would artificially enhance my athletic ability. I am, however constantly researching how whole foods can improve my performance: My latest kick: Beet Juice to raise my NO levels. I think it's working! Next stop: Vitamix! LOL!

Chris said...

12 years of Catholic school + being a really slow runner = not being willing to take them. Maybe if I knew it was between me and someone else to win a race the decision would be harder, but eh. Plus, how does that allow me to improve if my times get better/my body doesn't hurt as much because I took something? The line of how well I do based on me and how well I do based on the drug is too muddy. And since most people run to test themselves, how can you on drugs?

Brian said...

If it was only a question of making myself faster, no, I would not. That decision might be harder if I were 10 minutes away from a BQ rather than more than an hour and a half, but I still wouldn't do it.

That said, I've been frustrated by nagging shin/ankle injuries for much of the year, and if there was something outside approved (legal or sport) medicine I could inject to make my legs just feel like they did a year ago, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Jamie said...

I would NEVER consider steroids. Mainly because I'm currently teaching a unit on Drugs and the effects they have on your body to my middle schoolers and those effecs are NOT pretty. Overuse of steroids can cause massive acne outbreaks all over your body...Gross.

However, I have tried stimulants. But not on purpose. I was prescribed some Adderall in college to help study for finals and OH MAN. It did wonders to my running. Just saying. But I wouldn't do it again. I don't like the idea of taking pills that aren't vitamins...

Chad Chisholm said...

Brian,
That's why Andy Pettitte did it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Pettitte#Use_of_performance-enhancing_drugs

Amy Wills Gray said...

Nope, wouldnt take them. I hate needles - and heck, I dont even like to take Advil. And like some of the other women said: I'm a 9:30 minute miler...steriods arent going to help me! LOL

Brian said...

Thanks Chad. In that case, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was supporting the Yankees.

Christina said...

The interesting thing is so many people said NO, they wouldn't take EPO or steroids. What if it WAS legal?

Kathy said...

Why do you think we live in Mexico? Free EPO at the supermercado! :) SWEET!

Seriously, like someone above said, I compete with myself. I once got a shot of dexamethasone and that REALLY is a sweet drug. I was happy all the time (it lasted a good 24 hours after the shot) and loved working out. I'm on prednisone too often but it does nothing for me. On inhaled corticosteroids also (took a hit during my 180 km ride today when we stopped for coco water and the open fire made me stop breathing) and they also just make me able to breathe almost like a normal person, but honestly, even with all those roids, I still am not quite up to par with normal folks when it comes to air intake.

So short answer, No.

Lauren said...

Right now, as the runner I am, I can't say I would. I mean, besides the fact that I think it's morally wrong (I'm the person that freaked out after I took Sudafed for allergies during a high school cross-country race, and then found out it was technically a banned substance), I'd have no clue on how to get them, and then there would be the whole "How the hell am I going to get these in my body without having to have someone teach me how to inject needles?" bit. Because, I'm pretty sure I can't just ring up for an appointment to learn how to properly give myself injections and get clean needles for no legitimate reason.

However. Say I'm in an alternate universe where I was on a team, everyone else was doping (not just on the team, but the entire field was) and under extreme pressure from team members, from coaches for the team to Do Well in a race, and if I don't I'd be kicked of the team, in effect lose my job, do I think I'd be able to hold off and not take anything? The drug isn't detected, so I know I could get away with it. I don't know. I'd like to say that my morals will keep me from it and I would have a support system in place to keep me from doing something so phenomenally stupid, but since I've never been in a situation even close to that, I don't know.

I can't unequivocally say I would never, ever take PEDs ever, but it's not something I think I'd ever do. Beyond the fact that I'm not currently (or in the foreseeable future) in a position where I would feel that pressure to, I do have good people around me that I trust enough to tell if I were in a situation where I thought I'd 'have to' dope.